Khruangbin and Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré today announce their collaborative album Ali, honouring Vieux’s late father, Ali Farka Touré. Ali Farka Touré is well known as one of the most influential and talented guitarists that Africa has ever produced. His legacy and impact are hard to overstate. Ali’s sound merged his much-loved traditional Malian musical styles with distinct elements of the blues, singing in the local languages of Songhay, Tamasheq, Fulfulde and Bambara. The result was the creation of a groundbreaking new genre, now well known as the ‘desert blues’, earning him 3 Grammy awards, widespread reverence and the nickname of the ‘African John Lee Hooker’.
Out September 23rd on Dead Oceans, the music pays homage to Ali by recreating some of his most resonant work and experimenting with different sounds while maintaining the original’s integrity. The result is a rightful ode to a legend, creating a refreshed West African blend of musical reference the pairing hopes reaches new generations and audiences alike. The album will be released the day after Republic Day, Mali’s National holiday commemorating the independence of the Republic of Mali from the Mali Federation on September 22nd, 1960.
Today, the four also share the first preview of the album, “Savanne” – a work that showcases the contrast between restraint and baroque guitar flourish – a juxtaposition of dub and Malian desert blues that has seen Vieux become revered as “the Hendrix of the Sahara”….
“Savanne” is a remarkable, emotive entry point to the album. The rhythm is relaxed and joyfully repetitive, just a few chords played on guitar, and Touré’s raspy vocal is similarly controlled. Vieux and Khruangbin play across 8 tracks together on Ali and their interaction — Khruangbin’s guitarist Mark Speer plays synthesizer and conga on the album’s opening notes and gives Vieux’s unmistakable guitar leads free reign, with welcome interjections from Laura Lee Ochoa’s bass and steadied drumming from Donald “DJ” Johnson Jr. — is not surprisingly marked by deference and respect.
The specific songs played on this album are Vieux’s favourites and they also represent many different parts of Ali’s career – there are very famous songs like “Diarabi,” originally featuring Ry Cooder, obscure songs like “Alakarra,” and everything in between. “Ali Hala Abada” is a slow and meditative instrumental spotlighted by a mellifluous lead from Vieux, into which Lee perfectly slips her anchored backing rhythm.
Says Vieux of the collaboration: “I want this album to convey love. It is about the love that Ali brought into the world. It is about the love that I have for him and that Khruangbin has for his music. It is about pouring your love into something old to make it new again . ”
Adds Khruangbin, “We made this album to honor Ali’s life and body of work. We hope this collaboration enlightens more people to Ali’s musical legacy.”
Stay tuned for more from Khruangbin and Vieux Farka Touré soon.