Ali Farka Toure
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Ali Farka Toure
Ali Farka Toure;
Ali Farka Toure.jpg
Background information
Ali Ibrahim Toure;
Born (1939-10-31)31 October 1939
Timbuktu Region, Mali
Origin Niafunke;, Mali
Died 6 March 2006(2006-03-06) (aged 66)
Bamako, Mali
Genres Blues
Malian Folk
Instruments Vocals, Guitar, Cabasa, Njarka
Labels World Circuit

Ali Ibrahim "Ali Farka" Toure; (31 October 1939 - 6 March 2006)[1][2] was a Malian singer and multi-instrumentalist, and one of the African continent's most internationally renowned musicians.[3] His music is widely regarded as representing a point of intersection of traditional Malian music and its North American cousin, the blues. The belief that the latter is historically derived from the former is reflected in Martin Scorsese's often quoted characterization of Toure;'s tradition as constituting "the DNA of the blues".[4] Toure; was ranked number 76 on Rolling Stones list of "The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time" [5] and number 37 on Spin magazine's "100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time".[6]


Toure; was born in 1939 in the village of Kanau, on the banks of the Niger River in Gourma-Rharous Cercle in the northwestern Malian region of Tombouctou. His family belonged to the Arma community and moved to the nearby village of Niafunke; when he was still an infant.[7] His father died serving in the French Army in 1940.[8] He was the tenth son of his mother but the only one to survive past infancy. "The name I was given was Ali Ibrahim, but it's a custom in Africa to give a child a strange nickname if you have had other children who have died",[7] Toure; was quoted as saying in a biography on his Record Label, World Circuit Records. His nickname, "Farka", chosen by his parents, means "donkey", an animal admired for its tenacity and stubbornness: "Let me make one thing clear. I'm the donkey that nobody climbs on!"[7] Ethnically, he was part Songhai, part Fula.[7]

As the first African bluesman to achieve widespread popularity on his home continent, Toure; was often known as "the African John Lee Hooker".[9] Musically, the many superpositions of guitars and rhythms in his music were similar to John Lee Hooker's hypnotic blues style. He usually sang in one of several African languages, mostly Songhay, Fulfulde, Tamasheq or Bambara[7] as on his breakthrough album, Ali Farka Toure;, which established his reputation in the world music community.

His first North American concert was in Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia[]. 1994's Talking Timbuktu, a collaboration with Ry Cooder, sold promisingly well in Western markets, but was followed by a hiatus from releases in America and Europe. He reappeared in 1999 with the release of Niafunke;, a more traditional album focusing on African rhythms and beats. Toure; was the mentor and uncle of popular Malian musician Afel Bocoum[].

Some of Ali Farka Toure;'s songs and tunes have been used in different programmes, films and documentaries.[10] For instance, his guitar riff on the song "Diaraby", from the album Talking Timbuktu, was selected for the Geo-quiz segment of The World PRI-BBC program, and was retained by popular demand when put to a vote of the listeners.[11] This song is likewise used in 1998 as a soundtrack for the film L'Assedio (Besieged) by the Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci. His songs Cinquante six, Goye Kur and Hawa Dolo from the album The Source are also used as a soundtrack in the French film Fin aot, de;but septembre (Late August, Early September) directed in 1998 by Olivier Assayas.[10] The song "Lasidan" was featured in the award winning documentary "Sharkwater" by Rob Stewart.

In 2002 he appeared with Black American blues and reggae performer Corey Harris, on an album called Mississippi to Mali (Rounder Records). Toure and Harris also appeared together in Martin Scorsese's 2003 documentary film Feel Like Going Home,[10] which traced the roots of blues back to its genesis in West Africa. The film was narrated by Harris and features Ali's performances on guitar and njarka.

In 2004 Toure; became mayor of Niafunke; and spent his own money grading the roads, putting in sewer canals and fuelling a generator that provided the impoverished town with electricity.[7]

In September 2005, he released the album In the Heart of the Moon, a collaboration with Toumani Diabate;, for which he received a second Grammy award.[7] His last album, Savane, was posthumously released in July 2006. It was received with wide acclaim by professionals and fans alike and has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the category "Best Contemporary World Music Album".[] The panel of experts from the World Music Chart Europe (WMCE), a chart voted by the leading World Music specialists around Europe, chose Savane as their Album of the Year 2006, with the album topping the chart for three consecutive months (September to November 2006).[12] The album has also been listed as No. 1 in the influential Metacritic's "Best Albums of 2006" poll,[13] and No. 5 in its all-time best reviewed albums.[14] Ali Farka Toure; has also been nominated for the BBC Radio 3 awards 2007.[15]

On 6 March 2006, the Ministry of Culture of Mali announced his death at age 66 in Bamako from bone cancer, against which he had been battling for some time. His record label, World Circuit, said that he had recorded several tracks with his son, Vieux Farka Toure;, for Vieux's debut album which was released in late 2006[].

In February 2018 Idrissa Soumaoro - Brbr (feat. Ali Farka Toure;) was used in 'Black Panther'[16]

In popular culture

  • In the French film l'Auberge espagnole (2002), two characters are seen playing air guitar to "Ai Du".[10]
  • In the movie Unfaithful (2002), Diane Lane and Olivier Martinez slow dance to "Ai Du".[10]
  • In the French film Irma Vep (1996), Maggie Cheung and Nathalie Richard ride an old motorcycle down the quay to Toure;'s song "Soukoura".[10]
  • In the 2005 travel film Michael Palin: SAHARA, his music is heard in a scene about Nigerian nomads.[]
  • The World, a radio show distributed by Public Radio International, uses the song "Diaraby" as the theme to their Geoquiz. The song is a collaboration between Toure; and Ry Cooder; the song is featured on their Talking Timbuktu album.[11]



  • 2002 - Ali Farka Toure; - Le miel n'est jamais bon dans une seule bouche - a documentary film by Marc Huraux[18]
  • A Visit to Ali Farka Toure was released on DVD in the UK by Digital Classics DVD.
  • I'll Sing for You, 2001

See also


  1. ^ Pareles, Jon (8 March 2006). "Ali Farka Toure;, Grammy-Winning Musician of West Africa, Dies". Retrieved 2018 - via 
  2. ^ "Ali Farka Toure". 8 March 2006. Retrieved 2018. 
  3. ^ African star Ali Farka Toure dies, BBC News d.d. March 7, 2006. Retrieved online from BBC Online d.d. September 22, 2009.
  4. ^ Global South: Our Homage To A Great Master - Ali Farka Toure
  5. ^ "100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 2018. 
  6. ^ "SPIN's 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time". SPIN. Retrieved . 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g Biography on World Circuit (Original text by Lucy Duran (updated by Nick Gold & Dave McGuire))
  8. ^ Dictionary of African Biography. OUP USA. 2 February 2012. p. 51. ISBN 9780195382075. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f "Ali Farka Toure;". IMDb. Retrieved 2018. 
  11. ^ a b PRI's the World: Music Heard on Air for January 7, 2010
  12. ^ World Music Chart Europe: Charts
  13. ^ Metacritic: Best of 2006
  14. ^ Metacritic: All-Time High And Low Scores
  15. ^ BBC: Radio 3 Awards for World Music 2007
  16. ^ "The 5 Best Music Moments From 'Black Panther'". Retrieved 2018. 
  17. ^ News Nonesuch Records Archived 2009-12-05 at the Wayback Machine..
  18. ^ "Ali Farka Toure; - Le miel n'est jamais bon dans une seule bouche". 10 July 2002. Retrieved 2018 - via 


  • Kubik, Gerhard (1999). Africa and the Blues. Jackson, Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-57806-145-8 (hardcover); ISBN 1-57806-146-6 (paperback).
  • Guralnick, Peter, ed. (2003). Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey. A companion book to the PBS documentary series Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey. Foreword by Alex Gibney; afterword by Chuck D. New York: Amistad.

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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