"Africa is, indeed, coming into fashion." - Horace Walpole (1774)

3.08.2006

grace and peace

The big news on the BBC last night (I now have a short-wave radio, which makes evenings so much more interesting!) was the death of Ali Farka Toure. If you've never listened to Toure's music, now would be a great time to start. He singlehandedly created a genre that earned him the name "Father of the Desert Blues" as well as a couple of Grammys, including one for In the Heart of the Moon a few weeks ago. He had fans from all over the place. Last year on one of the late-night talk shows, I saw an interview about Sahara with Matthew McCounaughey, who mentioned that he'd traipsed out into the desert to find Toure and listen to him jam and how cool it was.

I've been wondering ever since what Toure thought about that, but, really, who cares? The music speaks for itself. It completes a circle in a way - Toure, who was actually born in Timbuktu, took the blues from the American south that came out of the songs slaves brought from Africa, took the blues guitar back to west Africa, fused it with the desert music that developed in the intervening three centuries, and created something beautiful. After reading an obituary, the BBC reporter last night was audibly sad, and closed her broadcast with the haunting sounds of my favorite Ali Farka Toure song, "Cousins," off his 1999 Niafunke album. He plays the guitar and starts reminiscing about how he's had friendship, love, and life and that he carries these memories with him.

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