Ali Farka Toure

Ali Farka Toure

One of the most internationally successful West African musicians of the '90s, Ali Farka Toure was described as "the African John Lee Hooker" so many times that it probably began to grate on both Toure's and Hooker's nerves. There is a lot of truth to the comparison, however, and it isn't exactly an insult. The guitarist, who also plays other instruments such as calabash and bongos, shares with Hooker (and similar American bluesmen like Lightnin' Hopkins) a predilection for low-pitched vocals and mid-tempo, foot-stomping rhythms, often playing with minimal accompaniment.

Toure's delivery is less abrasive than Hooker's, and the general tone of his material somewhat sweeter. Widespread success on the order of Hooker will probably not be in the offing, though, as Toure sings in several languages, and only occasionally in English. As he once told Option, his are songs "about education, work, love, and society." If he and Hooker sound quite similar, it's probably not by conscious design, but due to the fact that both drew inspiration from African rhythmic and musical traditions that extend back many generations.

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