Cultural preservation a global message.

Author:Williams, Stephen
Position:MUSIC - Sound recording review

Mon Pays

By Vieux Farka Toure

Six Degrees Records

Cat: 65703612002

There has been a veritable avalanche of recordings with a clear message that have taken exception to the Islamic fundamentalist incursion in northern Mali and the ban they have imposed on music.

It is as the great Malian singer Salif Keita says: "No music, no Mali!" It is clear that Vieux Farka Toure is in complete agreement as he uses this, his fourth studio album, to remind the world about the beauty and culture of his homeland.

Released last year, Mon Pays marks something of a departure for Toure as he replaces his trademark, majestic power-rock electric guitar style for predominantly acoustic approach.

"For me," Toure says, "it is a statement for the world that this land is for the sons and daughters of Mali, not for Al Qaeda or any militants. This land is for peace and beauty, rich culture and tolerance.

"This is our heritage, what we must always fight to protect in any way that we can. For me, that means making music that reminds the world of who we are."

For this mission, he joins forces with another famous son - as Vieux Farka Toure is the son of the legendary bluesman, Ali Farka Toure. And just as his father made many of his famous recordings with the kora master Toumani Diabate; so has Vieux worked with Toumani's son Sidiki.

Sidiki too is a master of the kora, the multistring instrument that is central to much of West Africa's immensely rich musical heritage. It is also the instrument that traditionally the griot storytellers would use to accompany the retelling of the great epics - a system of oral history that stretches back for many centuries.

But perhaps it is appropriate that the two tracks that feature Sidike's wonderful, flowing kora playing are actually instrumentals, accompanied by Toure's shimmering guitar work and some gentle percussion.

Two other songs, 'Future' and 'Peace' are sung in English. 'Future' echoes the album's central message - how crucial it is that Malian people do not forget their great heritage, whatever happens in the country and whatever trials and tribulations they suffer.

"'Peace' is quite simple and really speaks for itself," Toure explains. "There is nothing more important to our country," he insists.

Demonstrating how music passes from one generation so naturally, like the wind blowing across a wheat field, the song...

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