Vieux Farka Touré + Etran Finatawa
Martyrs'; Sun 21
Martin Scorsese once described the music of Ali Farka Touré, Mali’s (and arguably Africa’s) greatest modern guitarist, as “the DNA of the blues.” He was referring to the way Touré tangibly manifested the abstract connection between American blues and its Malian roots with a sound that’s part Mississippi delta, part Sahara desert.
It seems the Malian blues were embedded in Touré’s own DNA. Ali’s playing on his son Vieux’s self-titled 2007 debut—the last recorded performances before Ali passed away from cancer—offer an interesting compare-contrast between father and son. While Vieux’s guitar style isn’t quite as natural and emotive as Ali’s, he can navigate the same complex rhythms and has a similar knack for fusing traditional Niafunké music with Western rock and reggae. A remix version of the album features several international DJs, but live, Vieux keeps things traditional; he’s equally comfortable humming along while he plucks an acoustic melody as he is plugged in with a full band.
Touré will be joined by Etran Finatawa, which returns for its second Chicago appearance. The group members hail from the Tuareg and the Wodaabe in nearby Niger, two neighboring desert tribes that have had tensions in recent years. Their music reconciles the two ethnic groups through hypnotic, syncopated songs that feel both ancient and refreshingly new. “A man is nothing when he is alone / People need other people,” they chant on their recent album Desert Crossroads. It’s a message of solidarity that, in this divisive political year, goes beyond rhetoric.