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Considering how accomplished and influential his father was, it comes as no surprise that Vieux has a compelling musical story as well. Combining an extremely intricate sense of rhythm with a percussive open-string attack, Vieux stepped out of his father’s shadow with his self-titled 2007 debut. He built upon the boogie style Ali was known for and added his own Hendrix-ian influences to create a unique style with blueslike tones and repetitive song forms that stayed true to his folksy Malian roots. The album featured a guest spot from his father, and Toumani Diabaté— who plays kora [a 21-string African instrument that’s like a cross between a lute and a sitar] who was an important early influence and mentor to the younger Touré—also appeared on the album. Buzz started to build after the release of Vieux’s second studio album, Fondo, and his energetic and infectious live shows won him fans all over the world, as well as an invitation to play the opening ceremonies of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. The worldwide viewership of this appearance was reported to have been close to a billion people. Not bad for a bluesman from the desert.
With The Secret, Touré wanted to create an album that captured his unique brand of African boogie without pushing it too far into the mainstream. He brought on Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno to produce the album, and invited A-list guitarists such as Dave Matthews, John Scofield, and Derek Trucks to participate. “The original idea was to have a bunch of guests on the album,” says Krasno. “The more we listened, we decided we really didn’t want to pull him out of his zone. We wanted him to do his music.” Seconds into the opening track, “Sokosondou,” you hear what Krasno is talking about: Despite the famous cameos, this album definitely doesn’t sound like it was put together by a marketing genius trying to pull a “Smooth”-style Santana move. This is Vieux’s music, done his way.
The majority of this album was recorded in Mali. What were those sessions like?
Tiring [laughs]. We did a lot of work in a very short amount of time for those sessions. I wanted everything to be in place before I left for New York to finish the album. It was a lot of fun, but it felt like a huge amount of hard work. The sessions had a very smooth and natural feel, which made the hard work inspiring.
Was this material written specifically for this project or were these songs written over a long period of time?
Both. I had been working on this project since I recorded my first album [Vieux Farka Touré] in 2005. I have always had this type of album in mind as I was writing and collecting material.
Do you usually begin with a guitar riff or a melody when composing?
I begin usually with a guitar riff. Sometimes there will be a melody in my head that comes out of nowhere and I’ll start writing down a whole song before I touch a guitar. It really never happens the same way twice.
“I wanted this album to push guitar music forward and challenge other
guitarists to come into my world,” says Touré. Photo by Phil Onofrio