In his father’s footsteps…but No Longer in his Shadow: Vieux Farka Toure Steps Out
In his father’s footsteps…but no longer in his shadow: Vieux Farka Toure steps out What do you do if your father͛s not just good but a legend in his chosen trade or profession?
Well, if you’ve got any sense, it’s probably wise to choose another profession. Pele͛s son, wanted to be a footballer but he was clever enough to be a goalkeeper, not an outfield player. More recently, David Beckham’s sons have indicated they won’t be following dad’s football career.
One young man who has shown no trepidation in following in rather large footsteps is Vieux Farka Toure, son of the late Ali Farka Toure, the legendary, former Mayor of Niafunké and the man credited with laying down the template for what is now often referred to as Desert Blues.
If most followers of Malian music are honest with ourselves, we͛’d probably confess that we imagined the younger Toure to be a decent enough guitarist͛, hanging on his old man’s coat tails when he had his father’s backing in making his eponymous first record, which was released in 2007, a year after his father’s death.
The next record, a partially successful (musically speaking) reimagining of that debut did show that he was not one to be pigeonholed: the remixers were a motley crew of mainly dance music remixers and, in truth, some of the remixes just did not work. Almost none of the tunes seemed to be an improvement on the original. Not to put too fine a point on it, some of the remixes were downright dreadful. Nonetheless, the decision to do such a project showed he was one willing to take risks.
The proper follow-up, Fondo, released in 2009, was a much better affair and demonstrated beyond doubt that this was a young man here to stay and here to do his own thing both in his singing and his guitar playing. No easy thing, when countless guitarists have modelled their style on that of your dad͛s. He was no pale copy of his father. The 11 tracks showed an assurance and even swagger that one might partly attribute to the confidence of youth – he was 31 when it came out.
The Vieux Farka Toure legend, which I͛’ve never wholly bought into is that his family did not want him to emulate his father by pursuing a career in music and that he learnt to play the guitar in secret! Hmmm.
What is beyond dispute is that, like his father, he has not only ploughed his own furrow but has collaborated with a wide array of musicians across various musical styles. As he gets ready for his 2016 UK tour, his most recent release is shared with American singer-songwriter Julia Easterlin. The record is called Touristes and is a sheer delight. While many will by now be familiar with Vieux’s music, it is less so the case with Easterlin, for whom the term ͚singer-songwriter͛ barely does her justice: she experiments with instruments and with her voice. Indeed, she uses her voice like an instrument. It is alleged that in trying to make the point that music is to be listened to, to get the full effect, the great singer Joni Mitchel tried to capture the impossibility of describing music to someone else by saying writing about music is like dancing about architecture. This record surely proves it. The only way to get the full benefit of it is to listen to it. Their cover of Dylan’s “Masters of War” must have had particular resonance for Vieux as his home country, once a beacon in West Africa, was torn apart by war.
As for Vieux, he has proved that he is his own person and that whatever he does next, it probably won͛t be predictable. Catch him if you can, when next he’s in your town.
As time goes on, there’ll be less son of Ali Farka Toure͛ and more wasn’t his dad a famous singer, too?
- Vieux Farka Touré (2007)
- Vieux Farka Touré Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako (2008)
- Fondo (2009)
- LIVE (2010)
- The Secret (2011)
- The Tel Aviv Session (with Idan Raichel as ͚The Toure-Raichel Collective) (2012)
- Mon Pays (2013)
- The Paris Session (with Idan Raichel as The Toure-Raichel Collective) (2014)
- Touristes with Julia Easterlin (2015)