Vieux Farka Toure
Six Degrees Records
Cat: 65703 1158
Having a famous papa can be more of a curse than a blessing. For every Femi or Seun Kuti, the musician sons of Afrobeat star Fela Kuti (or Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart come to that) who accomplished great things when they went into the family business of making music, there are thousands of sons who follow their fathers with little success. But Vieux Farka Toure, the son of the great Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure, has already stepped out from his late father's shadow.
Ali Farka Toure proved--in case anyone ever doubted it -that the soul of the blues could be found in West Africa. His son Vieux is now turning heads with a more radical idea: that those western Saharan roots can be heard in everything from the heavy metal rock scene to Jamaican dub. Vieux describes it as "Koroboro ["black African", in his own language] rock".
Finding his genre
Fondo, Vieux's latest release, and his debut album with Six Degrees Records, is not simply a stirring mix of traditional instruments and modern production. It is far more than a world music artist embracing the sounds of Western rock; it is the sound of an exceptional artist and a young man of 28 years coming into his own.
While his eponymously-titled debut album, released in 2006, seemed to symbolise the passing of a torch from father to son by including the last recordings of Ali Farka Toure and a healthy dose of traditional Malian songs from the great man's repertoire, this new album has only one traditional song. All the others were written by Vieux himself. The album's opening salvo, Fafa, has a bluesy rhythm and intricate guitar solos that demonstrate Vieux's considerable guitar-playing prowess. In fact, Fondo demonstrates Vieux's guitar playing in several different musical settings. He has mastered the short, stinging phrases that his father was so famous for, but he also reels off extended passages of guitar solos.
The song Mali is a tribute to the Farka Toure homeland, elegant and restrained but joyful as well, with Vieux's guitar complementing a catchy, repeating riff. The funky, syncopated Ai Haira suggests a high energy interpretation of a reggae rhythm, with its talking-drum solo and some more interesting guitar work. And Sarama, despite using acoustic percussion, has more than a hint of the drum'n'bass sound so...