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Artist:  Vieux Farka Touré
Label:  Six Degrees Records
Time:  11 Tracks / 43 mins
Vieux Farka Touré has not been around for that long, but he has already made quite an impression – one that he may well have made, even without the help of his family name.
He claims that his late father’s music is desert blues, but that his is desert rock. I think he overstates the difference. He modernises, but on second album Fondo (the road) he still tends to alternate tracks evenly between the older and the newer. So as well as full-bodied pieces, such as the true rocker “Chérie Lé,” and “Ai Haira,” where the guitar notes pour out like a stream of bubbles escaping to the surface, we get plenty of others with a blues edge and a languid African-time pace. True, the meandering “Mali” and feature track “Sarama” have guitar solos, but they are lowish in the mix, and there to create mood rather than set off any head-banging. African music is so much more about rhythm than its western brother, and the tracks as a whole feel more like desert dance than desert rock.
Much of this could even have been his father’s work, such as the traditional “Walé,” where the calabash clicks, the guitar follows the melody like a scat singer in reverse, and his father’s vocalist Afel Bocoum sings; or the instrumental “Slow Jam,” which is unmistakably blues, as the name suggests. His heritage is gorgeously preserved in “Paradise,” which features the tinkling kora of legendary family friend Toumani Diabeté, and which creates such an indolent mood that the only place to go afterwards is to reprise the opening “Fafa” in a slowed down, echoing finale.
Where Vieux does become his own man is with speed – there is a lot of fairly frantic fretboard fiddling on many pieces – and by pushing the style boundaries. The casual dub of “Diaraby Magni” flows beautifully with the high guitar notes to produce a sway-inducing piece of chilled pleasure.
Farka Touré’s music is as vibrant and sun-scorched as the cover, and easily accessible to western ears.
Derek Walker


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