Q (9/99, p.117) - 4 stars (out of 5) - "...Toure comes home in style....the kind of big-boned, backyard affair that no amount of elaborate studio technology can match....NIAFUNKE marks a welcome step backwards. And a good three forward."
The Wire (1/00, p.67) - Included in Wire Magazine's "50 Records Of The Year ['99]"
The Wire (8/99, p.52) - "...The blues strand is still much in evidence and deeply satisfying, but Toure at home seems more than ever in touch with Mali's indigenous musical tradition, the richness of which has few parallels anywhere in the world..."
CMJ (1/10/00, p.25) - Included in CMJ's "New World '99 Top 5."
CMJ (7/12/99, p.27) - "...[Toure's] use of complex hand percussion,...violin, and a female call-and-response chorus will remind you that the rhythms of the Niger River...are the supple influences thatmake NIAFUNKE such a special message..."
Dirty Linen (10-11/99, p.70) - "...further exploring the taproot of the blues....NIAFUNKE is a rich, subtle piece of work..."
Mojo (Publisher) (7/99, p.106) - "...The blues reign supreme here once again....the original bluesman [delves] even further into prehistoric rock..."
Personnel: Ali Farke Toure (vocals, acoustic & electric guitars, njarka violin, percussion); Affel Bocoum (vocals, acoustic guitar); Voro Cisse (njurkle traditional guitar); Guidado Diallo (njarka violin); Oumar Toure (congas, background vocals); Hammer Sankare (calabash, background vocals);
Souleye Kane (djembe); Djeneba Doukoure, Fatoumata Traore, Hamidou Sare (background vocals).
Recorded in Niafunke, Mali and Livingston, The Church & Elephant Studios, London, England. Includes liner notes by Nick Gold & Ali Farke Toure.
NIAFUNKE was nominated for the 2000 Grammy Award for Best World Music Album.
Ali Farka Toure is a guitarist from Mali whose style draws almost equally upon the folk music of his homeland and American blues, particularly the dark and minimal repetitive-trance style of John Lee Hooker and acoustic country blues guitarists such as Mississippi John Hurt. In the past, his (uniformly fine) albums have featured guest shots and collaborations with Ry Cooder and members of the Irish trad-folk group the Chieftans, but here it's back to the roots.
Recorded in a Toure's home village in Mali, with a small group of singers and players, NIAFUNKE is delightfully low-key and captivating. Beautifully picked acoustic guitar combines with shimmering electric guitar percussion, voices, and violin to weave the spacious, circular melodies that explore the common ground shared by the blues and African folk music. "Tulumba" glimmers like a desert mirage, and "Pieter Botha" sounds like a Delta blues tune played by a wandering musician while traveling through Spain and England in the Middle Ages.