CD Review: Sidi Toure

Each song on Sidi Touré’s previous album, Sahel Folk, was recorded in only two takes at his sister’s house in Gao, Mali, which resulted in a low-key (and lo-fi) affair. Koïma (Malian for “go hear”) is more polished, but the music retains the authenticity and rawness of Sahel Folk. Influenced by Mali’s rich musical tradition, the songs are also informed by Touré’s growing knowledge of the American blues tradition. There is an irony at play throughout the record: here is an African guitarist referencing American blues, a form that traces its roots to African musical traditions that go back for centuries. Many of the songs on Touré’s album start out in a stripped-down acoustic style reminiscent of Robert Johnson and Leadbelly and then expand into rich compositions that call to mind the blues infusions of Taj Mahal’s later work, all while staying true to the traditional music of Mali. For this album, Touré recorded each track with an accompanying guitarist, a singer, a calabash (a dried, hollowed squash used as a percussion instrument) player, and a traditional sokou (one-stringed violin) player, to create an all-around luxurious musical experience. The opening track, “Ni See Ay Ga Done” (It Is to You That I Sing), begins with the hypnotic rising and falling of arpeggios and fingerpicking patterns, eventually growing into a fully realized and artfully crafted multilayered composition. That approach—starting with a simple guitar line and then adding layers to build simple-yet-complex songs—serves Touré, and his listeners, well. (Thrill Jockey)

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