The title of Vieux Farka Touré’s fifth solo studio album, Les Racines, translates to “the roots” as Touré digs deep into the Songhai music of Northern Mali for this sturdy collection of ten songs. Touré is no stranger to these sounds having grown up with them, but on past solo efforts he drifted to some jazz or rock offerings but now he commits fully to the desert blues.
The opener “Gabou Ni Tie” moves directly into those sand-swept landscapes with hypnotic circular playing while “Adou” and closer “Ndjehene Direne” both continue that snaking guitar style that fans of Tuareg artists like Bombino and Mdou Moctar will instantly gravitate towards. Madou Traore’s flute starts (and is the focal point) on “Ngala Kaourene” which translates as a plea for unity, no matter ethnicity, which Touré wrote for current day Mali.
Standing out as a clear highlight is the instrumental title track. The brilliant, flamenco-like, guitar lines cascade forth around Madou Sidiki Diabaté on kora, snapping percussion parts and a groove that floats with grace and beauty. This track is gorgeous and by keeping it instrumental everyone can understand the feeling. Touré adds sweet melodic vocals to the blissful “Lahidou” which also showcases Diabaté’s kora work.
“Tinnondirene” deploys the coolest stuttering rhythm on the album, highlighted by the percussion while Cheick Tidiane Seck guests on keyboards during “L’Âme” delivering a soothing charm and playful vibe. Vieux Farka Touré works hard to connect the album with his homeland and his personal history writing the twinkling “Flany Konare” for his aunt while his father’s spirit is everywhere throughout the record.
The son of the legendary Ali Farka Touré, Vieux Farka is continuing the tradition of those artists who came before him, while forging his own path. Les Racines is an ode to the past, yet Touré’s is constantly working towards a better future.