Album Remarks & Appraisals:
"Much has been said about the West African origins of the blues, but the only real concensus is that the music of Mali, particularly from the north, sounds remarkably similar to early African American forms that emerged first in the Mississippi Delta, then later in Chicago and beyond. This information comes as no surprise to the elder statesman of Malian blues, Ali Farka Toure, who has been rather outspoken in his assertion that American artists have borrowed from his music, not vice versa. More likely, though, both are actually branches off the same evolutionary tree.
Toure first attracted widespread attention in the US when Ry Cooder (of Buena Vista Social Club fame) approached him to make Talking Timbuktu (Hannibal, 1994), a potent statement that won a Grammy and rode atop the Billboard world music charts longer than any album in history. Listeners have since been spurred on to explore Toure's roots on discs like Radio Mali (World Circuit/Nonesuch 1996) and Niafunké (Hannibal, 1999).
This reissue of Red & Green resurrects two albums made in the early '80s, offering nearly ninety minutes of vintage material, much of it consisting of Toure playing guitar and singing along with minimal percussion. This music is stunning in its stark beauty, intimacy, immediacy, and reverence. The bluesman's characteristic self confidence manifests itself as ever-steady, assured progression. These mostly mid-tempo pieces explore pentatonic melody and harmony, counterpoint appearing in the form of conversational guitar parts as well as call and response phrasing.
It's worth pointing out that the lyrics (printed in their entirety in translation from six original languages) stress the importance of friendship, love, praise, social awareness, and respect for elders and ancestors; the emphasis on shared humanity serves as both a reminder and a celebration. The trance-like character of much of this music sucks you in, provided you're willing to make the journey, and leaves you with a warm glow inside that takes some time to dissipate.
Without question two of the greatest recordings in the history of West African music, and some of the most utterly bluesy - yet overwhelmingly positive - musical experiences on the planet." -AllAboutJazz
Down Beat (p.87) - 4 stars out of 5 - "Toure's music falls into a stream-of-consciousness groove, deftly employing repetition and chanting over a lilting beat."
Dirty Linen (p.49) - "[I]t is the brilliance and vitality of the music that matters. These classic recordings rank among the most striking to come out of Africa in the last 30 years."
Personnel: Ali Farka Touré (vocals, guitar); Ali Farka Touré; Ousmane Gadjaka (guitar); Boubacar Hamadoun Farana (bells, griot); Hamma Sankare (vocals).
Liner Note Author: Andy Kershaw.
Recording information: Radio Mali Studios, Bamako, Mali.
Translators: Vieux Farka Touré; Aly Guindo; Georgiana Violante; Marie Claire Boisset Pestourie.
By the mid-'90s, Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré was expanding his signature acoustic African blues by changing his instrumental palette and collaborating with Western musicians like Ry Cooder (as on 1994's Talkin' Timbuktu). While Touré gained prominence during this period, many die-hard fans tout the artist's earliest work as his strongest. The double-disc set Red & Green brings together two albums originally released by the French label Sonodisc between the mid- and late '80s. The original vinyl versions were long out of print and difficult to find, until their issue here on Nonesuch. Both albums are entirely acoustic (Touré didn't introduce an electric guitar until 1991's The Source), with minimal accompaniment on calabash and ngoni (a traditional four-string guitar), which perfectly complements Touré's percussive guitar style and plaintive, keening vocals. The music bears a striking resemblance to the modal blues of American artists like Son House and John Lee Hooker, yet it is deeply West African, with scales and motivic flourishes indigenous to the culture, and lyrical themes that reflect Touré's life in rural Mali. Red & Green is a must for Touré fans: a blissful, early dose of this singular artist's superb music.
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- A Visit to Ali Farka Toure (Marc Huraux)