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Vieux Farka Touré: Out of the Shadows

Vieux Farka Touré: Out of the Shadows

Touré onstage with Mamadou Sidibe, who’s laying down a groove
with his Samick Corsair 4-string. Photo by Daniel Boud

You have a deep connection to blues music. Do you remember when you first became interested in it?

I can’t say, since I feel like it was before I can remember. I grew up listening to my father’s music, so it’s in my blood and my soul. I don’t consider it an interest as much as an expression of who I am in my soul.

Did any other Western artists significantly influence you?

Yes, Phil Collins and Bryan Adams. They write beautiful melodies. I have always appreciated that since I was a child.

As a musician, what were your early years in Mali like?

I started playing guitar when I was 20 at the Arts Institute in Bamako [capital of Mali]. During that time, I kept my playing a secret and basically taught myself. I was afraid to let people know that I was doing it. As the son of the best guitarist in the history of Mali, I needed to be careful. Eventually, people started finding out and I began to play in Toumani Diabaté’s band. Toumani was my mentor and turned me into a professional.

Touré usually plugs his go-to Godin into a Roland JC-120 Jazz Chorus. Photo by Derek Beres

Your right-hand technique is unique. Is that something that developed naturally or did someone teach you that?

It developed naturally. It’s simply the guitar style from the north of Mali. I use only two fingers—and really all that people usually hear is one finger, the one that is doing the soloing.

Did you have any other formal musical training?

I had played percussion since I was a child. Growing up in Niafunké [in north-central Mali], I played behind both my father and Afel Bocoum. But I had no training on guitar until I joined Toumani’s band.

The title track of this album is a duet between you and your father. What was it like growing up as the son of a legendary guitarist?

Growing up, I didn’t know he was a legend or even a big star until I traveled with him to Paris. I was 10 or 11 years old and it was amazing to see the huge crowd revering him. I always knew that I was very fortunate to have him as a father. He was everything to me. He still is.

How did his music influence you?

I don’t consider it an influence. It is a base. You don’t think how the meat influences a hamburger, or how the broth influences the soup—that is the base, and then other things can come on top and influence it.

Touré plucks away on a Mexican-made Strat while in the studio. Photo by Trevor Traynor

Vieux Farka Touré's Gearbox
Godin Summit CT, ’90s Mexican-made Fender Stratocaster, Taylor GS8

Roland JC-120, 1968 Fender Super Reverb

Boss CH-1 Super Chorus, Boss SD-1 Super OverDrive

D’Addario .010–.047 sets
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