Ali Farka Toure

Record review

Phases & Stages

Ali Farka Toure

Savane (World Circuit/Nonesuch)

When the great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure passed away in March at age 67, he left us with one of his most accomplished recordings. Bridging the physical and spiritual expanse between West African tradition and American blues innovation, Savane paints a vivid picture of Toure's Niafunké as a mysterious locale of desert wonder. Where farming is an act of monumental proportions, Toure cultivates bountiful crops born of the free-roaming soul of the nearby Niger River. Layering the sounds of the ngoni (a plucked lute), the njarka (single-string fiddle) and the gurkel (single-string guitar), Toure's majestic six-stringed excursions ruminate upon life as an act of communing with nature. Primarily sung in his native Peul dialect, lyrics address everything from cattle-rearing to the organizational beauty of democracy in its full egalitarian splendor. Incorporating contributions from British harmonica ace Little George Sueref, as well as legendary James Brown saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, Savane serenades into a more grounded sense of consciousness, where earth between toes feels like a welcomed sanctuary. Born a noble rather than a griot, Toure made it a personal habit to reach far beyond petty circumstance in order to discover the full potential of music as a unifying force.


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