March 8th, 2006

Ali Farka Touré

Ali Farka Touré has died.

Ali Farka Touré, the self-taught Malian guitarist and songwriter who merged West African traditions with the blues and carried his music to a worldwide audience, winning two Grammy Awards, died in his sleep on Monday at his farm in the village of Niafunke in northwestern Mali, the Ministry of Culture of Mali announced.

He was either 66 or 67; he was born in 1939 but he did not know his birth date. His record company, World Circuit Records, said he had suffered from bone cancer.

Mr. Touré's deep grounding in Malian traditions made him one of African music's most profound innovators. "Mali is first and foremost a library of the history of African music," he said in a 2005 interview with the world-music magazine Fly. "It is also the sharing of history, legend, biography of Africa."

In Mali he was considered a national hero. At the news of his death, government radio stations there suspended regular programming to play his music. ...

More than anything else, Ali Farka Toure wanted to show me his farm. At first I did not understand why.
I had come to his home to find out why he had turned his back on the glamour and luxury that was his for the taking after he won his first Grammy award and the world "discovered" the Malian Blues man.

I wanted to know why he had moved back to his native village, Niafunke, about 80km (50 miles) upstream from the fabled ancient city of Timbuktu on the Niger River.

Instead of answering my questions, Ali Farka insisted we take a trip in his river canoe to see what he was cultivating in the dry and sandy soils of northern Mali. ...

I hate writing posts like this.