Ali Farka Toure
Hannibal (

Niafunke is Ali Farka Toure's first new album in five years,. Word is that following the Grammy-winning success of Talking Timbuktu with fellow guitarist Ry Cooder in 1994, the African blues man became disillusioned with the Western music biz (imagine that) and returned home to Mali. "It's where the music belongs," noted Toure. He virtually disappeared; devoting his energy towards turning a few acres of brown sand on the edge of the Sahara desert into a lush, green farm for himself and family of 11 children. Toure has little interest these days in leaving home again, so for the spontaneous Niafunke, the recording studio came to him. An abandoned brick building without electricity or running water (but good acoustics) was found, and yards of extension cables were run from a neighboring town. The end result, Niafunke, is expectedly rougher and less polished than Timbuktu, but Toure's trademark electric guitar tone and slick fretwork has retained its hypnotic edge. His wandering, gravely voice is more methodical, less forward than ever before. The recording environment was technologically less than ideal, but there is a palatable 'live' air, hot, dusty and soaked in African blues. Every tune, from the driving "Ali's Here" to the melancholic "Mali Dje" are centered around lyrics of community -- the children and politics of Mali, man's relation to God, and never assuaging your thirst for life. You probably won't understand a word; but then again I can't remember the last time I understood everything John Lee Hooker sang. - Todd Dominey

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