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Vieux Farka Touré to perform in India

Vieux Farka Toure to headline Amarass Desert Music Festival

Sharin Bhatti Nov 01, 2011

The Hendrix of Sahara will headline the Amarrass Desert Music Festival, to be held in New Delhi and Mumbai this month

Unassuming Vieux Farka Touré is a farmer and herder hailing from small town Niafunke, in the heart of Central African nation Mali. His is a tradition passed on from father to son, of tilling the fertile soil on the banks of the Niger delta where Niafunke is situated, that separates the Sahara from the semi-arid savannah from South Africa. The agriculturalist also inherited another tradition from his late legendary father, Ali Farka Touré. The Malian singer and guitarist upheld the folk music of his people and interpreted it on the guitar. Fans such as filmmaker Martin Scorsese called Ali Farka Touré’s music Malian Blues. Ali was also ranked 76 on ROLLING STONE’s list of The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. It was only natural for son, Vieux to follow suite, who blends electric rock, blues and even funk against a backdrop of traditional instrumentation and sounds.

Three albums old, Vieux, who has been called The Hendrix of the Sahara, will drop his funky blues this month at the Amarrass Desert Festival to be held in New Delhi on November 26 and 27 and in Mumbai on November 29. The festival will feature artistes like fellow-Malian blues musician Mamadou “Madou” Sidike Diabate, who will open for Touré along with Rajasthani folk music, Manganiyar artistes and many more. Over 30 musicians from the Thar and Sahara deserts will play over the two days.

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Vieux Farka Touré is looking forward to the India experience. “I have long hoped to make it to India. I have heard many great things about the country especially the music,” says Vieux, who will be playing with his Malian band at the festival. “I plan on playing a very deep Malian groove. My band of musicians, are Malian in descent and we play music with influences of rock, reggae and Arabic that is now a part of Mali, mostly thanks to my father,” says Vieux, who grew up with music being played and created at home. “In Niafunke, music is everywhere you look, not just at home. Wherever I was, there were a lot of people playing music together.  It was not a conscious decision to get involved in music, it just happened naturally,” says Vieux. His Uncle Afel Bocum first taught him to play an African percussion instrument called calabash. “As a teenager, I began playing percussion and drums for my father and that was my first experience touring and playing big shows,” describes Vieux, who didn’t pick up the guitar till he was 20. “I could play a little, but was scared of jamming because I knew I would be compared to my father. I would hide and play without anyone knowing and it was only when I found myself improving in technique that I began playing professionally,” recalls Vieux.

Over the years, Vieux has collaborated and toured with his father, all the while creating a new identity of his own till his father lost his life to Cancer in 2006. Last year, Vieux also played at the opening ceremony of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. But his most notable achievement has been the recent release of his third album The Secret, which sees him as an evolved music producer and composer.. The title track is a previously unreleased session with Ali, recorded days before he passed away, in 2006 in Mali. “It was a personal time in my life and strangely also a time, when I was still discovering myself as an artiste and was trying to break out of the shadow of my father all the while, trying to capture his perfection and technique. I released my first album in 2007, but held onto this track because I wasn’t ready to share it with the world just yet,” describes Vieux of ‘The Secret,’ which has Ali’s dominant guitar loop with deep-rooted tribal vocals from various parts of Central Africa.

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The album also has collaborations with artistes like Dave Mathews Band, Derek Trucks, John Scofield and Ivan Neville. ”˜All The Same’, the collaborative track with Dave Mathews Band has a distinct Indian influence, with Viuex plucking the guitar to sound like a sitar twang. “I used a sitar-guitar on the track. I really like the sound of that instrument. While in India, I would like to learn more about it,” says Vieux.

Block your dates for The Desert Music Festival to be held at Siri Fort Auditorium, New Delhi on November 26 and 27 and Blue Frog, Mumbai on November 29. Book your tickets on http://tinyurl.com/amarassdesertfestival

Photo Credit: Ankur Malhotra