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Vieux Farka Toure


Photo by Laura Williams

with support from Gabby Young
+ Dry the River

Dingwalls – Camden Lock

April 8, 2010








A review by Mary Couzens for EXTRA! EXTRA!


Despite the comfortably uncrowded Wednesday night, cheers greeted the appearance of Vieux Farka Toure and his band at Dingwalls and cries of delight could be heard at the first strains of his lyrical guitar playing - a winning combination of rock and cool desert blues. Smiles all round onstage. The first number, ‘Slow Jam’ from Farka Toure’s latest expansive album, Fondo was an instrumental rife with hooking riffs designed to stick, though the enthusiastic crowd needed no encouragement.

The permeating warmth of ‘Fafa’, also from Fondo followed, offering Farka Toure’s own distinctive style of laid back infectiousness, with his knowing, far flowing vocals and resonant guitar playing taking centre stage – mesmerising and then some. Continuing along the Fondo line, ‘Mali’, with its mixed bag of choppy, clip-clopping rhythms, funky bass lines, undulating Afro-Latino drumming and repetitive, chanting back-up vocals was one example of a song which seemed to epitomise the term melting pot. One wonders (and hopes) if there is still time for Farka Toure and company to be added to this year’s WOMAD in Charlton Park. The plaintive ‘Souba, Souba’ another atmospheric number from Fondo with its slowly grooving guitars, crowned with dazzling rock riffs from Farka Toure, furthered this notion, as the only thing which could possibly top watching this group in concert anywhere would be being able to dance to their live music in the open air.

A bit removed from last year’s stellar CD release, the group was able to spread their set further still, allowing room for other numbers, past and present to shine. Dub reggae influenced ‘Inne’, designed to rock the house, was the proverbial icing on this concert goers cake with its’ confident, right on vocals and rhythmic cacophony of drumming, both hand and kit,  and exuberantly driving guitar and bass powered beats.

‘Wakaidou’ found the three ‘front men’, Farka Toure, rhythm guitarist and bass player singing in unison as well as one of the group’s two drummers, who tapped out a clicking sound, reminiscent of language I’d heard once in my travels, (in Nassau) accompanying mournful guitar, jointly producing pure grooving soul. Vocally, few can wail like Farka Toure, and with three singers joining him, the effect was full on.

There were shades of Santana peeping through the galloping beats and ultra expansive guitars of ‘Wosoubour’, despite its overriding African flavour. Once the pace of the deceptively mellow rhythms of ‘Cherie Le’, another Fondo gem, picked up, the song included some lively call and response singing from the crowd at Farka Toure’s invitation. It was fun joining in and watching the audience taking part in the singing and spontaneous dancing inspired when rapid fire hand drumming prompted the dropping of all thoughts of anything but the groove. During the course of the set, I had also enjoyed watching as the very vocal (among themselves) drinkers at the bar, who were as far removed from the stage as possible, gradually drew ever nearer to the front as they, and those who were initially stationed at small tables at the back and sides of the house responded to the irresistible lure of Farka Toure’s music, eventually, dancing and cheering with fans down front.

We were treated to some spectacular jamming in the context of ‘Sarama’ from Fondo, as Farka Toure teased the strings of his electric guitar to his (and our) advantage, the drummers joyously hammered and beat and the rest of the group clapped, played and sang along, encouraging the crowd to join in.

The encore, ‘Awei Womei’ arrived far too soon. Given its siren like guitar and slamming drum intro, and its rapid, undulating hand drumming, accompanied by pulsing bass, with the group going full throttle, there was jam aplenty in this piece as well. In fact, there’d been plenty of jamming throughout, which, considering the ability and creative agility of the marvellous musicians, was a real treat, which Farka Toure topped off by slipping his entrancing vocals between the song’s crawling grooves.

Having witnessed Farka Toure and company offering their compulsively scene stealing support for an ‘bigger’ star in the world music firmament at Royal Festival Hall last year, I can only add that it was pure poetry watching him and his fine musicians coming into their well deserved own as the starring act on this rare and intimately staged triple bill.





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