Music Review: Les Racines

by Vieux Farka TouréWORLD CIRCUIT
reviewed by John Malkin
Cover art for Les Racines by Vieux Farka Touré

Vieux Farka Toure's new album, Les Racines, was recorded in Bamako, Mali, in his home studio, which is named after his father, the eminent African blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré. It’s Vieux’s fifth studio album and is a reconnection with the Songhai music of Mali, one of West Africa’s musical traditions known by the catch-all term “desert blues.”

Les Racines translates as “the roots.” Vieux explains in the album notes: “It’s important to me and to Malian people that we stay connected to our roots and our history.” He adds: “It’s difficult to be the child of someone who has gone to the top of the mountain. The album is an homage to my father but, just as importantly, to everything he represented and stood for.”

The ten compositions bring rhythms that interlock in surprising and exciting ways and combine joyfully with vocals and harmonies that tingle the spine. Vieux’s guitar dexterity and groove are exhilarating on songs like “Lahidou” and “Ngala Kaourene,” a classic piece of desert blues.

Master guitarist Vieux formed Les Racines during the first two years of pandemic lockdowns and slowdowns. It features a remarkable group of musicians, including Madou Traore on flute, Kandia Fa on ngoni, Souleymane Kane on calabash, and Toumani Diabaté’s younger brother Madou Sidiki Diabaté on kora. Cheick Tidiane Seck adds incredible keyboards and Amadou Bagayoko, from Amadou & Mariam, adds guitar.

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