Malian Blues

Musicologists and music-lovers alike revere Mali as “the birthplace of the blues.” Mali’s traditional music draws on the tales of ancient griots, who effectively kept the country’s historical record by singing songs of praise about its nobility. Malian blues fuses plaintive groit-inspired narrative with the shuffling rhythm that’s the staple of American bayou blues. Global musicians regard Malian blues legend Ali Farka Toure as one of the most important guitar players of all time, noting his musical residence at the crossroads between traditional African and American musics. His 1994 CD with American guitarist Ry Cooder, “Talking Timbuktu,” demonstrated his blues prowess as well as his ability to blend disparate African cultures into a unified African statement–Toure (read a posthumous profile) sings in 11 languages on the album. In this YouTube video, Toure jams with blues guitarist Corey Harris (read about his love of Malian blues) and waxes philosophical about African-Americans’ deep connection to Africa.

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