Ali Farka Touré had a fancy relationship with success exterior Africa. It got here to him comparatively late in life – he was almost 50 when the music he’d been recording for a small French label because the mid-70s began attracting consideration in Europe and America – and he by no means appeared totally comfy with it. His guitar enjoying was in contrast with that of blues legends together with Robert Johnson and John Lee Hooker, however he described the blues as “a sort of cleaning soap powder”. He would often collaborate with western musicians, however informed considered one of them, Ry Cooder, that America was “a spot of unhealthy power” and a “non secular automotive park”. He offered a whole lot of hundreds of albums and received Grammy awards, however was at all times wont to easily vanish again to Mali. He adopted his Cooder collaboration, 1994’s Speaking Timbuktu, by disappearing for 5 years and threatening to surrender music altogether: he appeared extra concerned about farming within the village of Niafunké, his house city, the place he ultimately grew to become mayor.
Maybe a want to step out of his father’s appreciable shadow has knowledgeable the method of Vieux Farka Touré. Actually, he’s tried to court docket a mainstream viewers extra assiduously than his dad ever did. His eponymous 2007 debut album was swiftly adopted by a remix assortment, which streamlined his sound for dancefloors. He has toured the US and Europe relentlessly. And he groups up with the form of collaborators who push his music additional afield, amongst them Israeli composer and pianist Idan Raichel, jazz guitarist John Scofield and experimental US vocalist Julia Easterlin. His collaborative album with the latter, Touristes, featured covers of each Bob Dylan’s Masters of Warfare and Fever Ray’s I’m Not Achieved. His newest collaboration could be his most spectacular thus far. Laborious on the heels of June’s sparse, easy homage to his father’s sound, Les Racines, comes Ali, which reinterprets a few of his father’s best-known songs with Houston trio Khruangbin, a musical union that was apparently sealed in a London pub over fish and chips.
It’s an impressed selection. Since 2015, Khruangbin have specialised in a form of musical fusion that remembers the late trumpeter Jon Hassell’s notion of fourth world music, which drew from so many international sources that it ended up evoking an alternate universe. Their sound has variously encompassed dub reggae, funk, Ethiopian jazz, Turkish psychedelia, south-east Asian pop and Latin American cumbia with out being dominated by any of them: on 2020’s fabulous Mordechai, the outcome was hazily psychedelic, unplaceable and totally beguiling.
They’re on related type on Ali. For an album that was apparently recorded reside in beneath per week, its temper is basically beatific and unhurried: in case you had been casting about for one thing to at the least vaguely examine its sound to, you may decide on late-90s Air. Savanne is a tune with a fairly sharp lyric – it bemoans the lot of the African diaspora working menial jobs for minimal pay, angrily protesting western intervention in African wars – however right here the distinction between the phrases and the music is placing: they sound as in the event that they’re rising via a blissful haze, the vocals rendered distant with echo, far much less clear than the flurries of guitar that punctuate them. On different events, they hit on one thing virtually completely complementary: Diarabi’s story of romantic woe (she’s married another person after he didn’t stump up a dowry) is rendered as a completely attractive, soft-focus R&B ballad, gilded with melancholy backing vocals.
That stated, you don’t want any understanding of the lyrics – or, certainly, information of Ali Farka Touré’s again catalogue – to search out your self enraptured by the music right here. Tongo Barra is constructed round a winding, insistent funk groove; on Mahine Me, Khruangbin unexpectedly alight on an inflection in Touré’s guitar enjoying and encompass it with music that carries a definite trace of zydeco; Ali Hala Abada carries a hushed efficiency. Alakarra, in the meantime, spends virtually as a lot time very slowly fading in and really slowly fading out because it does at full quantity, as if its slow-motion loveliness is passing you by.
It’s an album you’ll be able to simply lose your self in, which is presumably the purpose: Vieux Farka Touré apparently declined to inform his fellow musicians what the songs had been known as earlier than recording them, wanting a “clear slate”. He received one: it’s usually fairly jolting to take heed to his dad’s unique variations after submerging your self in Ali’s luscious soundworld. Or, fairly, every potentiates the opposite. In Khruangbin’s arms, Lobbo sounds not one million miles from lush 70s soul alongside the strains of William DeVaughn’s Be Grateful for What You Received, relocated to west Africa. It’s stunning, which solely makes the 1990 unique sound all of the extra sparse and haunting. A tribute that works totally in its personal proper, whereas casting new mild on the music that impressed it, Ali is a superb factor.
This week Alexis listened to:
Say She She – Prism
The fabulous title observe of the NY trio’s debut album: honeyed concord vocals, lo-fi digital soul backing.