Ali Farka Toure. The ‘Desert Bluesman’ passes.

Before the blues arrived in the Mississippi Delta, it lived in the desert of Mali, West Africa, and was known by a different name.

The sound of Ali Farka Toure was like the DNA that proved the paternity of the music, a link between the people and places that claimed it as their own.

“I’ve stayed in the tradition, and they’ve evolved in exile,” he said of African American bluesmen who observers wrongly assumed had influenced his playing. “It’s very important that these musicians go back to Africa to see where the music comes from, because in that way they’ll find the origins, the roots of their music.”

Incredibly, African-Americans brought to the US as slaves managed to keep alive their musical traditions, and that music is what became the Blues. Willie Dixon once said, “the Blues is the root, everything else is the fruit”, and that’s absolutely true. Now it’s clear that the music of Mali was the root of the root.

“It’s impossible to calculate the importance of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters and now Ali Farka Toure,” Bonnie Raitt, who played with Toure, told The Times on Tuesday. “He’s a giant.”

I read somewhere that American blues players who went to Mali were stunned to find that what they thought was indigeneous music to the US has been part of the culture of Mali for hundreds of years. Roots, indeed.
[tags] Ali Farka Toure [/tags]