10 Minutes With Vieux Farka Toure

Vieux Farka Toure

Vieux Farka Toure is a Malian blues guitarist of great international acclaim. He is also the son of late Ali Farka Toure, a true master guitarist and one of Mali’s greatest bluesmen. Having initially defied his father’s wishes by becoming a musician, he finally received the long-awaited nod of approval, when they collaborated together on tracks featured on Vieux’s first album.

-Vieux Farka Toure, thank you for giving your time to conduct this interview. To begin:

1) In your own words, can you describe your style of music and how it fits into the wider context of your particular cultural background?

I would say my music is Desert Rock music. This is a mix of traditional music with blues, rock, reggae, jazz, Arabic music... a bit of everything. But it is rooted in the desert, in the North of Mali. That is the spiritual home of the music. Then it wanders around the world picking up interesting things and bringing them home.

2) Who have been your greatest Malian musical influences, past and present?

Of course the greatest influence is my late father, Ali Farka Toure. He taught me so many things about music and also about life. For me, he is everything. Then also Toumani Diabate, my father's griot and the world's greatest kora player, has been a great influence on me. It was he that brought me into his group when I was a teenager to learn the styles of the south and how to conduct myself like a professional musician. It is he that I still turn to for guidance in my career. There are many others like my uncle Afel Bocoum, my aunt Khaira Arby, and my friends like Oumou Sangare. I am lucky to be part of such a rich musical heritage and to enjoy that every day with others that are taking part in this.

3) As a non-Malian writer, I am trying to convey to our readers the place music occupies within your society. But perhaps more interesting, is to understand how you as a Malian, perceive the importance of your music, and the role it plays within your culture. Can you elaborate?

Music for us is life. There is no difference. I would tell journalists during the coup in the north that when they took away our music it was like they killed us. Music is the colour and the joy in every aspect of life. For us, you will play music for every occasion and even when nothing is happening, there is music in the streets. In Bamako it is like this, always loud with sounds of different kinds of music. In the north, you will see men or children around a tree playing music, or you will hear women singing in the streets. Our whole lives are centred around our music. This is why Mali creates so many stars in music, because we place such a profound importance on it.