Interview with Vieux Farka Touré
One year after his last release, the electric The Secret (Six Degrees Records), Vieux Farka Touré makes a comeback with Israeli pianist extraordinaire Idan Raichel. The Touré-Raichel Collective has just released an outstanding 100% improvised record simply called 'The Tel Aviv sessions' (Cumbancha). It's a beauty beyond words, the kind of magic that makes music so special. The story is now quite famous. Idan Raichel fell on Vieux Farka Touré in an airport in Spain; they promised each other to stay in touch and make music. Later Vieux Farka Touré had a gig in Tel Aviv and met Idan (and a few guests) for a three-hours jam after the show. They had enough material to give birth to a breathtaking album that equals and reminds Ali Farka Touré-Ry Cooder's 'Talking Timbuktu' (1994) or Ali Farka Touré-Toumani Diabaté's 'In The Heart Of The Moon' (2006). A few days before his New Morning gig in Paris (on November 12th), Vieux talks acoustic guitar, improvisation alchemy and his next solo album.
Vieux Farka Touré
(Interview by Nicolas Ragonneau - for paris DJs, October 2012)
01. I saw you on stage at Créteil, la Maison des arts last spring. I was very impressed by your technique, unspectacular, very concise with great suppleness in the fingers. A kind of anti guitar-hero playing. How would you describe your technique?
Well, I dont have a name for my style. It is based on the traditional guitar style of the north of Mali. I use just my thumb and my index finger. The index finger does everything except the bass note. I play the bass note with my thumb. This is the traditional way of playing guitar in North Mali which comes from playing the ngoni. I think, my style... I use my left hand more than other guitarists to play notes quickly and sometimes without also playing the string with my right hand. I like to play the guitar almost like it is a percussion instrument. I started in music as a percussionist and a drummer so that has helped to develop my own sound on the guitar.
02. One session in Tel-Aviv with Idan Raichel, a perfect album at the end. Why do you think your association with him works so well?
I think we are a good team because there is a deep friendship and a deep respect between us. With Idan everything is simple, there is no problem with ego or things like that. It is very simple. He plays what he wants and I play what I want and we listen very closely to eachother. With this group everything depends on listening to the other players and trusting them.
03. Can we expect some other releases from the Touré-Raichel collective?
I think maybe, yes. We have not talked about it yet. But everyone really loves this project so I say 'why not.'
04. You've learned to play guitar with Toumani Diabaté. What particular style do you think he brought you?
Toumani, first, he taught me the music styles from the South of Mali. That is the tradition that he is from. This is very important to be able to build on the style of the north and also to be able to go into other styles from outside of Mali like reggae, jazz, all of that. He taught me how to develop an ear for jazz. This was very important for the Toure-Raichel Collective.
05. 'The Secret' was produced by Eric Krasno. At first sight your worlds did not seem so close. Why have you chosen to work with him?
It was my manager who suggested him to me. I knew some of his music and I had met him before so I knew he was a cool guy, you know. My manager explained to me that he was in the right music scene to make connections with the guitarists I wanted to work with. So I said 'cool, why not, lets see how it goes'. Krasno is a great producer with a very very sharp ear. He understands the music from Mali in his bones. I didn't expect that but it was a very nice surprise.
06. Tell us about your next solo album. How do you see it?
I have just finished the recording part of my new solo album. It is my most mature and advances album, I think. I only play the acoustic guitar on it. I have really fallen in love with the acoustic lately, really since touring with Toure-Raichel Collective. The album is very respectful of my heritage. I think many people might mistake some of it for Ali's music. But there is always a modern feel. Also it will feature my friend Sidiki Diabate, Toumani's son, who recorded for the first time on an album that will come out around the world. That will be cool. Ali and Toumani jr! (laughs).
07. Epilogue: a word on the Mali events.
I don't like to talk about the situation in Mali. It is not safe for me to talk about. I am just praying for peace everyday and for the development of the country out of this bad situation.
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Vieux Farka Toure - Komedia session pt. 1 Amana Quai