Payin' Dues: Vieux Farka Touré

BORN IN MALI in 1981, the son of Ali Farka Touré has five albums to his name, bookended by 2007’s self titled debut and last year’s Touristes. Match fit from a recent UK tour, he is set to record his sixth. He says: “I want to do something that is very simple, but also with a very big sound, real rock’n’roll from Africa.”

Did you grow up with music?

Yes, not just because of my father, but for any child who grows up in Mali, music is always around. Music is a very important part of life in Mali. From birth to death you are surrounded by music. My first memories of music were at weddings, baby-naming ceremonies, funerals, when I was maybe three or four. In Mali, every public occasion is accompanied by music.

What music first impacted?

That was my father’s music. I remember listening to him play when I was young, maybe eight, nine or 10, and I saw the way he would inspire people. I wanted to have the kind of magic that he had. My father didn’t want me to be a musician though, because he didn’t like the music business. It took several years to convince my father to give me his blessing to follow my heart into music as he had done. It was only towards the very end of his life that he realised this was my destiny. He was very proud of my music at the end of his life. He would invite people to listen to the rough mixes of my first album. That was very important to me.

Toumani Diabaté mentored you.

Toumani has taught me many, many things. First, musically, he taught me all about the styles of music from the south of Mali. He taught me how to play Manding music and Bambara music. I played in his group for many years, then when I became a solo artist, he taught me a lot about the business of music and to this day he gives me advice. He is like a second father to me.

Your third album, The Secret, featured Derek Trucks…

I actually didn’t meet Derek. He recorded over it in his own studio. He is an incredible guitar player so I hope to meet him and play with him in the future. You’re recording as a power trio next? Yes, exactly, my plan for my next album is to record with my trio. I’ve played for years with a trio, but I have not played like this in the studio. So now, it is time.

Who else has influenced your style?

Everyone from Afel Bocoum to BB King, to John Lee Hooker, to Jimi Hendrix, and I tried to make my own style.

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