Ngawang Lodup 

Friday 27th November 2015

The Lantern Theatre, Kenwood Park Road, S7 1NF

 

Vieux Farka Toure

Wednesday 3rd March 2016, 7.30pm

Yellow Arch Studies, 30-36 Burton Rd, Sheffield

 

" ... the best moments in music happen when no one is thinking ..."

The first TalkingGigs event at the wonderful Yellow Arch Studios featured Vieux Farke Toure - son of the legendary guitar maestro Ali Farka Toure but now an international superstar in his own right - in conversation with TalkingGigs own Andy Morgan. Conducting the interview in English, Vieux explored the history and politics of Mali, his father and their relationship, and his own approach to music making ... as ever, interspersed with some astonishing solo performances of a range of traditional and other songs.
Understandably the gig was sold out weeks in advance ... which makes it even more of a shame that there is so little photographic evidence of such an amazing event ... but the official photos seem to have "gone missing".  I'm really grateful to Pete Martin from the wonderful Now Then magazine for the review published in their March 2016 edition.

This is the latest in the excellent Talking Gigs series, where musicians from around the world are interviewed about their life and work, interspersed with songs that explain or expand the narrative.

Vieux Farka Toure is the son of Ali Farka Toure, the Malian guitar maestro. During the conversation Vieux talks about his upbringing in Niafunke, Mali, his relationships with his father and grandmother and the more recent civil war. He comes from a historical tribe of soldiers and his father, despite himself being a world renowned musician, wanted Vieux to follow in his ancestors' footsteps. Vieux had no interest in joining the army and eventually received his father's blessing to be a musician just before his death in 2006.

The first song Vieux plays showcases his dazzling fingerstyle guitar playing. He mixes traditional West African music with flashes of other styles including flamenco and gaelic. We hear that Vieux is not a fan of rehearsing and prefers a looser, less regimented approach ("I don't like perfect music, like from a machine"). This is apparent from his playing, with fantastic technique delivered in a fluid, almost improvised manner.

'Desert blues' is a catch-all term that is frequently used to describe the various musics of West Africa and, despite a common misconception, it is Vieux's absolute belief that the blues originated in Africa, and that John Lee Hooker's forebears travelled from Africa and took that music consciously or intuitively to the US.

Vieux has previously said that "the best moments in music happen when no-one is thinking," and towards the end of the evening Vieux is joined by a bassist and a drummer (from Cameroon and Ivory Coast respectively) to play a short set including a joyous eight-minute extended jam that is driven along by a galloping backbeat and throbbing bass. Layered on top are Vieux's shimmering, trilling guitar lines and sweet vocal tones. A final solo guitar and voice piece allows Vieux to beautifully capture the haunting and graceful spirit of his homeland.

Pete Martin