Pioneering guitarist who introduced the world to the sounds of African desert blues.
The “godfather of the desert blues”, Ali Farka was the first African musician to show, through his often hypnotic, rhythmic and self-assured-playing, that the blues had originated in his home country, Mali, out on the edge of the Sahara.
After his ascent to global fame at the end of the 1980s, he toured the world and won his first Grammy, in 1994, and then retreated to his home town of Niafunke, on the banks of the Niger river in the north-west Mali, where he devoted his time to farming and his role as the local mayor, spending his money he earned from his albums on irrigation and development schemes that transformed the region, making it self-sufficient for food.
His Grammy award-winning ‘Talking Timbuktu’ (1994) has become one of the most successful African music albums in history. His album, ‘In the Heart of the Moon’, recorded, in 2000, with the world’s leading Malian kora player Toumani Diabate, was an exquisite selection of gently virtuoso duets, played at the Barbican in London.
Born Ali Ibrahim Toure, he died of bone cancer in the Malian capital Bamako. He never went to school and could neither read nor write. He became interested in music after listening to music at weddings, circumcision feasts and child naming ceremonies. Toure earned his nickname of Farka, or donkey (which is no insult in Mali) because of his strength.