Songhai Blues - Homage To Ali Farka Touré

Malian bluesman Samba Touré is a protégé of the legendary Ali Farka Touré (1939–2006), who, known as the African John Lee Hooker, was one of the greatest guitarists of all time and one of the continent’s most internationally renowned musicians. When Farka Touré asked Samba to join his band for a world tour in 1997, it proved to be an experience that would inspire him for ever.

Entranced by Farka Touré’s own genius blend of traditional Malian music and North American blues, as well as the new musical styles and influences they discovered on the road, he began to develop his own style of blues. Under the mentorship of the Malian legend, Samba launched his own career forming the group Fondo (meaning ‘the departure’ in the Songhai language). Since then, he has created a unique genre of Songhai Blues, with Farka Touré’s profound influence living on in his musical creations.

Born on 15 June 1968, Samba grew up in Dabi, a small village in the Tombouctou region of Mali. Samba’s father passed away just before his birth, leaving his mother to raise him alongside his brother, Ibrahima ‘Bouri’ Séré. Although they could not afford formal education, he was surrounded by music from an early age and his mother was one of the first women to sing with the young Ali Farka Touré at the Biennale Festival in Mali.

When he was old enough, Samba left for the Malian capital, Bamako, in the hopes of finding a job. There, he heard the popular guitar-driven dance music of Zaire for the first time and, inspired, began singing and playing guitar in a band called Farafina Lolo (Africa Star), with his brother Bouri on the drums and Baba Simagah on the bass guitar.

During that time, he fell in love with the music of Ali Farka Touré, a true original who was transposing the traditional music of his native north Mali and single-handedly bringing the style known as desert blues to an international audience. Samba was entranced by this master from Niafunké (near Tombouctou) and began to play the guitar in the same style, adapting his playing from traditional string instruments on to an electric guitar.

When Farafina Lolo split up in the mid-1990s, Samba briefly joined another group, Super Lolo, before leaving in order to concentrate on composing. In 1997, Farka Touré offered him the unique opportunity to tour with him as part of his band. Delighted, Samba accepted and, while touring across Europe and the USA, his mentor opened his eyes to a variety of new influences. Farka Touré inspired him to create his own blues style and, on his return to Mali, formed Fondo.

Fondo includes Zoumana Tereta, a master of the sokou (a traditional Malian violin), Oumar Barou Diallo on bass guitar, Hamma Sankaré on calabash and Samba’s brother Bouri on the drums. The youngest member of the band, Djimé Sissoko, is the little brother of the great Baba Sissoko, and can be heard on the gnoni (a four-string guitar) and the tamani (talking drum). Together, they have played at numerous African festivals, with the bassist Baba Simagah and the conga player Oumar Touré (who was a longtime player with Ali Farka Touré) joining the line-up.

Samba Touré creates a harmonious blend of River Niger blues, traditional Songhai themes and Western influences. Like most Malian songs, Samba’s lyrics convey moral messages as well as introducing us to different elements of Malian culture, such as the importance of family.

Bursting with energy, Samba Touré’s music continues the blues legacy of the late, great Ali Farka Touré. Recorded in Bamako, in Yeleen Studio and Sydoni Studio, this is the first time this music has been released internationally.

Songs Information

01      Anbafo          (Bambara)

Embracing the diversity of Malian society, Samba tells us how each ethnic group has its own skills and traditions, which are in danger of being lost. The Sarakole are travellers and adventurers, the Bambara are farmers, the Bozos are the fishermen, the Fulani are breeders and Songhai women are the best cooks. ‘Anbafo’ encourages everyone to dance together and celebrate their diversity.

02      Foda Diakaïna (Songhai)

In Mali, family is a sacred institution and here Samba describes the close bond between a grandmother and her little grandson.

03      Kaïri Kaïri (Songhai) 

A song warning men about the tricks that women use to seduce them.

04      Bila (Songhai)

‘Bila’ suggests that everything will be alright as long as you listen to your family, who truly know you and love you, rather than the malicious gossips in your neighbourhood.

05      Yawoye (Songhai)

This is a traditional song from Tombouctou, sung at baptisms and weddings, about women from the noble caste and their slaves.

06      Koye Ma (Songhai)

This is the story of the Malian king Kankou Moussa, who was very rich. One day, in the city of Gao, the capital of the Songhai empire, he went to the River Niger in front of the Red Dune and poured 80 tonnes of gold into the river. The gold is still undiscovered 700 years later.
 
07      Baba Guitteye (Songhai)

Baba Guitteye was a famous butcher from Tombouctou whose white clothes were famous for always staying spotless.

08      Goye Kurya (Songhai)

‘Goye Kurya’ encourages people to work, saying there are no rewards without an effort. Don’t bring shame on your family by becoming a beggar.

09      Tamani (Bambara)

The tamani is a small talking drum that is played under the armpit. Here it is the symbol of the joy and unity of the Malian people.

10      Goye (Songhai)

This is a song about the fight against poverty. Samba says that, although the Malian people are poor, it means they are very courageous.

11      Soumanako (Bambara)

‘Soumanako’, or ‘Nightfall’, is about how when night falls everyone gets what they deserve. If you spend all day sleeping, you can’t afford to take girls out dancing. If you have more than one wife, the other(s) will chase you away. If you are a bad man, no friend will open their door to you.

12      Djandjo (Bambara)

This is a song about how hard it is to conquer the heart of a beautiful woman. Winning a woman’s heart can be as hard as conquering the world.

13      Ali Farka (Songhai)

Samba wrote this song in honourable memory of his mentor, the late, great Ali Farka Touré.