Bamako, March 8, 2016 (AFP) – Mali paid tribute to the “genius” of Ali Farka Toure by naming a square in the capital after him as the country marked the 10th anniversary of the death of one of Africa’s most renowned musicians. Ali Farka Toure Square, complete with a statue of the two-time Grammy winner, was inaugurated Monday in Bamako in a simple ceremony attended by family members, friends, representatives from the culture minister and a former prime minister.
One of his sons, musician Vieux Farka Toure, one of his widows Henriette Kuypers-Toure, friend and producer Nick Gold and Ali Guindo, coordinator of his foundation, were among the guests. The national museum also opened an exhibition of photographs from the life of the man known as the “African John Lee Hooker”. A tribute concert and football tournament were held at the weekend. Vieux Farka Toure recalled that his father “had a special way of playing” which he himself adopted. “I continue to work in everything he did, pushing the music where he wanted to take it,” he said.
Recognised worldwide as one of the most important musicians in Africa, Toure was born in 1939 in Kanau in northern Mali. He died on March 7, 2006 at the age of 67 after a long battle with cancer. Toure achieved fame in his lifetime with both his blues guitar work and singing and playing on traditional African instruments.
‘All is not dead‘
His talent earned him two Grammy awards — first in 1995 for “Talking Timbuktu” with American guitarist and songwriter Ry Cooder and again in 2006 for “In the Heart of the Moon” made with fellow Malian musician Toumani Diabate. Toure was someone “completely unique” who “modernised the music without compromising it”, said Gold, whose World Circuit label started recording him in 1987. “He is an incredibly important musician in Malian and African music… he found a way of communicating this traditional music outside of its tradition,” said Gold. “What he did was transpose the music to the Western instrument.”
With “Talking Timbuktu” Toure became the first African to win a Grammy. “All the young people who flourish these days speak and play the music of Ali Farka Toure,” said Guindo, who coordinates the foundation Toure set up in 2005. “Ali is not dead, he is inspiring a lot of talented musicians,” said Kuypers-Toure, who was in Bamako for the tribute with one of the couple’s three daughters. “There is a new generation who have their own style, but they all listened to Ali Farka Toure,” said the Dutchwoman, one of three women with whom he had a total of 12 children.
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