On his own and with collaborators from all over the world, Vieux Farka Touré has forged a distinctive musical blend, drawing on the music of his native Mali, and particularly that of his father, the late legendary Malian guitar player Ali Farka Touré, with rock, Latin music, and other sounds from around the world. In particular, his music explores the tonalities of West African music that is echoed in American blues.
Often referred to as “The Hendrix of the Sahara,” Vieux Farka Touré was born in Niafunké, Mali in 1981. His father, who died in 2006, came from a historical tribe of soldiers, and defied his parents in becoming a musician. When Vieux was in his teens, he declared that he also wanted to be a musician. Ali Farka Touré disapproved due to the pressures he had experienced being a musician. Rather, he wanted Vieux to become a soldier. But with help from family friend and kora maestro Toumani Diabaté, Vieux eventually convinced his father to give him his blessing to become a musician shortly before Ali Farka Touré died.
On his first album, Vieux paid homage to his father and followed Ali’s musical tradition, giving new versions of the West African music that is echoed in the American blues. The album featured Toumani Diabaté, as well as his late father.
On his second record, “Fondo,” Vieux branched out and presented his own sound: while remaining true to the roots of his father’s music he used elements of rock, Latin music, and other African influences. The album received a great deal of critical acclaim from across the globe, and Vieux was clearly moving out of his father’s shadow.
By June 2010, Vieux was performing at the opening concert for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. That month Vieux also released his first live album, “LIVE.” His live performances are highly energized and Vieux is known for dazzling crowds with his speed and dexterity on the guitar, as well as his palpable charisma and luminous smile, both of which captivate audiences from all audiences in spite of any language barriers (though Vieux does speak eight languages!).
In 2011, Vieux released his third studio album, “The Secret,” so named because the listener will hear the secret of the blues with a blend of generations from father to son. It was produced by guitarist Eric Krasno (of the Soulive trio) and features South African-born vocalist Dave Matthews, Derek Trucks on electric slide guitar, and jazz guitarist John Scofield. The title track is the last collaboration between Vieux and his late father. With “The Secret,” Vieux Farka Touré clearly established himself as one of the world’s rare musical talents and guitar virtuosos with a distinct style that always pays homage to the past while looking towards the future.
Vieux released “The Tel Aviv Session” in April 2012, a collaborative project with Israeli superstar Idan Raichel dubbed ‘The Touré-Raichel Collective’ that has been hailed by fans and critics alike as a masterpiece and one of the best collaborative albums in the history of international music, drawing comparisons to Ali Farka Touré and Ry Cooder’s legendary “Talking Timbuktu” album.
In 2013, Vieux Farka Touré’s “Mon Pays,” as an homage to his homeland. Being that his native Mali had recently been splintered by territorial fighting between Tuareg and Islamic rebels, the album was devoted to reminding the world about the beauty and culture of his native Mali.
Vieux reunited with Idan Raichel in Paris to record, release and subsequently tour their second collaborative album as the Touré-Raichel Collective in 2014. The result was yet another musical and critical triumph, titled “The Paris Session,” revered by many as not just a musical gem for the ages but a powerful testimonial to the power of art and fraternity to transcend vast cultural and political divides.
Last year, Vieux released another unexpected, genre-bending collaborative album, this time with New York-based singer Julia Easterlin, aptly titled “Touristes.” The album includes a languid, haunting version of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” as well as covers of Fever Ray’s “I’m Not Done” and a reworking of Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” retitled “In the Pines.”
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