The 2006 loss of vastly accomplished “Desert Blues” pioneer, Malian Ali Ibrahim "Ali Farka" Touré, affectionately also known as the “African John Lee Hooker,” would leave a continental-sized hole in improvisational music if not for his son, Vieux. As a student of his father’s work and eventually earning his own affectionate title, “the Hendrix of the Sahara,” the generational talent leap ensures the continuation of a musical heritage that’s at once traditional and groundbreaking. As a steward of Malian music, Touré has entered the world stage and deepened the understanding of the connections between Malian music and the improvisational, like on 2011’s The Secret, produced by Soulive’s Eric Krasno featuring Dave Matthews, Derek Trucks, and John Scofield as well as the final collaboration between father and son.
Enter Texas trio Khruangbin, a group now famous for merging a diverse influence of global music into the psychedelic new. Touré, already focused on honoring his father’s music, was open to the suggestion by manager Eric Herman he consider the group as a collaborative vehicle, and after catching them on tour for their second release Con Todo el Mundo, the four met in London and it was settled. After pandemic restrictions were lifted, Touré joined Khruangbin at their Houston studio and they laid down the eight Ali Farka Touré tracks that would become Ali over the course of only one week - all without the group knowing in advance which songs would be honored next. Touré explains to NME’s Ben Jolley, “For me, the best music is spontaneous – you must be in the moment. This is how I like to record and how I believe you get the best music, the best energy.” He adds, “Khruangbin understood this very well and they were open to all the ideas I brought to them, and they brought a great amount of talent, love and dedication.”
The result is a record that can be at times lyrically pointed but musically hypnotic like in opening track, the political “Savanne.” The record is also respectfully updated yet maintains a distant energy, a past both near and far. Listeners to PRI’s The World may recognize “Dairabi,” the opening lick used in the program’s intro, but the lush fullness of Khruangbin’s interplay carries the track away into a sonic dreamland.
“I wanted to do this tribute with Khruangbin because I adore their music and they are a great example of musicians from a different generation, and from a very different part of the world, who were also inspired and influenced by my father,” Vieux tells the New York Times’ Marcus J. Moore. “I want this album to convey love. It is about the love that I have for him and that Khruangbin has for his music.”
Stations spinning Vieux Farka Touré & Khruangbin vary far and wide including WFUV, The Current, Radio Milwaukee, WDST, and KXT.
Photo by Jackie Lee Young