Red and Green

COMPOSERS: Ali Farka Toure
LABELS: World Circuit
PERFORMER: Ali Farka Touré (voice, guitar), etc
CATALOGUE NO: WCD 070

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Ali Farka Touré has been an icon in Mali for three decades, and in France for nearly as long. Elsewhere, the story began in the 1980s when his ‘Red’ album (it had no title, that was its sleeve colour) started to catch on across the English Channel. Here it is again, remastered and paired with ‘Green’.

Compared with more recent African productions aimed at the global market, they are positively spartan: just the light, nasal, flexible and haunting voice, his acoustic guitar which comes into its own in long, inventive introductions, plus occasional vocal or instrumental support and some simple percussion.

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The music’s contemporary content is subtle. In mode, gait and some of the inflections you can’t easily disentangle what is local, and what is fed back across the Atlantic in an acknowledged Blues influence. ‘Green’ is better recorded, the voice closer and the range of colour wider, so that the effect is more intense, while the older collection has definitive first versions of several famous songs.