Guitarist follows in father’s footsteps
Published on July 10th, 2013 | by Joe Lawler
Vieux Farka Toure grew up in Mali with a Grammy-winning musician for his father, Ali Farka Toure. The elder Toure has been called one of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Vieux Farka Toure’s career was taking off near the end of his father’s life, and he recently released his sixth album, “Mon Pays.” He plays at Vaudeville Mews on Wednesday and answered a few questions via email with the help of an interpreter.
Q: I’ve read that you took up guitar over your father’s objections. Why didn’t he want you to play, and what made you stick with it?
My father did not like the music business. To him it was a dangerous business filled with too many problems, too many thieves and people who will take advantage of you. It is also a very hard life, always on the road and it is difficult to earn a good living. But, I am stubborn like he was. So, I just continued to study music and play and improve and eventually I demonstrated to him that I was serious about this. He knew at the end of his life that it was my destiny to be a musician, too.
Q: Was American music very prevalent in Mali when you were growing up?
Some groups were very popular but there was a lot of music that was very popular in America that we did not know, like the Beatles, like Rolling Stones. We would listen to Phil Collins but we did not know David Bowie. I don’t know how to explain how some artists made it to Africa and many others did not.
Q: As you’ve traveled the world, has the
music you’ve encountered in other countries shaped yours?
Yes, very much. I love to add new styles and flavors to my music. I like adding Arabic influence, Indian influence, and of course American influences like hip-hop. I love the challenge of mixing new styles with my base of Malian blues and rock.
Q: What was it like on your first American tour? Had you ever visited before?
My first time in the U.S. was in January 2007, when we came in to New York City in a full snowstorm! It was very hard and stressful but now when I look back on it I laugh. Already it seems like 50 years ago!
Q: For more than a year Mali has been experiencing the Tuareg rebellion. Have you been home during it, and has it changed things for you?
Well, you know, things are slowly getting back to normal. It was difficult beyond words, this past year and a half, but now I think things will be OK. I go home often and I am on the road often. Since the invasion of the French, every time I go home it seems like things are improving little by little. So I am feeling optimistic now. I am an optimist!
Q: Do you feel the role of music in Mali has changed since the rebellion started?
No. The role of music in Mali has been like this for thousands of years and won’t change because of hypocrites who try to take over our land and seize power. They cannot touch the power of our music.
Q: Did the conflict inspire your latest album, “Mon Pays,” which translates into English as “My Country?”
Yes, of course. This album is an homage to my great country. I was feeling so bad with all that happening, I needed to do something to try to fight this empty feeling, so I made this album to remind everyone, including myself, how beautiful the music of Mali is.
Vieux Farka Toure
When: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Vaudeville Mews, 212 Fourth St.