Eminent Malian guitarist Vieux Farka Touré will release his new album Les Racines via World Circuit Records on June 10. Known as the “Hendrix of the Sahara,” Touré is the son of the late “Desert Blues” pioneer Ali Farka Touré; Les Racines is Touré’s debut album for World Circuit and his first since 2017. The title, which translates as “the roots,” represents a deep reconnection with the Songhai music of Northern Mali known as “Desert Blues,” made famous by his father via his own World Circuit releases decades earlier. Album opener “Gabou Ni Tie,” which features Amadou Bagayoko of Amadou & Mariam on guitar, can be heard belo…
There’s a popular proverb in Mali that says life’s family name is change. It’s a dictum that Vieux Farka Touré has followed throughout his career over a series of adventurous cross-border explorations and collaborations. Yet there’s another more universal adage that says to know where you’re going, you must know where you’ve come from. It’s that essential human need to embrace one’s heritage that lies at the heart of Les Racines.
The son of the late Ali Farka Touré, acclaimed as the finest guitarist Africa has ever produced, Vieux spent two years making Les Racines but the album had been gestating in his mind even longer. “I’ve had a desire to do a more traditional album for a long, long time. It’s important to me and to Malian people that we stay connected to our roots and our history,” Vieux explains. The lockdowns caused by the Coronavirus outbreak, which prevented him from touring, were turned to his advantage as he used the time to craft the most profound statement of his career to date.
Les Racines is Vieux’s sixth solo album in a recording career that began in 2006 and has taken in audacious collaborations with the likes of Dave Matthews and the jazz guitarist John Scofield, an album with the American singer-songwriter Julia Easterlin, and two records with the Israeli artist Idan Raichel as The Touré-Raichel Collective. “Early in my career people asked why I wasn’t just following my father. But it was important for me to establish my own identity,” Vieux says. “Now people know what I can do, I can return to those roots with pride and I hope a certain authority.”
Recorded in Bamako in Vieux’s home studio, the timeless grooves of the album are steeped in the traditional music of West Africa. But the fire of Vieux’s guitar playing and the urgency of the messages in his songs add an entirely contemporary relevance. “We are nothing if we abandon respect for the past,” Vieux notes. “But we can also marry modernity with the strength of our traditions.”
The ten songs, all original compositions, address a range of topics, traditional and contemporary. “In Mali many people are illiterate and music is the main way of transmitting information and knowledge,” Vieux explains. “My father fought for peace and as artists we have an obligation to educate about the problems facing our country and to rally people and shepherd them towards reason.”
“Returning to the roots of this music is a new departure for me and I’ve never spent so long or worked so hard on an album,” Vieux says. “I knew it had to be deep and durable and powerful and so I took a lot of time to reflect on how to do it and put it together.”
LES RACINES TRACKLISTING:
- Gabou Ni Tie
- Ngala Kaourene
- Les Racines
- Be Together
- Flany Konare
- Ndiehene Direne