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Vieux Farka Touré capos his Godin Summit CT and hits a joyous
chord during a gig in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Daniel Boud
Understanding a genre’s lineage helps you connect dots over time to understand how music interconnects and evolves. Nothing illustrates this better than the blues, whose evolution can be traced through many different generations and geographic regions. You can see the progression from America, beginning with the earthy Delta style of players such as Charley Patton and Robert Johnson, and then Muddy Waters helped morph it into a gritty, urban blues, and before long the genre had hopped over the Atlantic to the UK and led to the high-energy solos of Eric Clapton and the dirty swagger of the Rolling Stones. The cycle will keep going in perpetuity—especially with the ease of global information transfer that technology affords today—and all of it will continue to inform modern blues and blues-rock. The Secret, the latest release from Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré, is a great example of this.
Although we all know the blues blossomed as a cathartic American art form fed by the blood-and-sweat-soaked soil of slavery, poverty, and prejudice, if you go back before Johnson’s supposed meeting at the crossroads and Patton’s siring of the Delta blues, you logically end up in Africa—the homeland of the mothers, fathers, and grandparents of the genre’s founders. And naturally, the cycle of musical evolution goes back in time to the dawn of humankind.
As Darwin found on the Galápagos Islands, though, the same species will evolve differently under contrasting conditions. And for players interested in how this phenomenon has played out musically in modern times, Vieux Farka Touré’s father, the late Ali Farka Touré, has proven a fascinating and enjoyable study. Ali’s first appearance on the world music scene came with his 1976 album Ali Touré Farka, and soon after his reputation as an “African John Lee Hooker” spread throughout the continent. Prior to succumbing to bone cancer in 2006, Ali’s influence had spread into the mainstream due to his collaborations with slide wizard Ry Cooder, Taj Mahal, and Corey Harris.
Touré onstage with percussionist Souleymane Kane (left) and
drummer Tim Keiper (middle). Photo by Daniel Boud