Release Date: Feb 3, 2015
Record label: Glitterbeat
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, International
The crisis in Mali may be over, but the dangers remain, and Samba Touré’s hypnotic desert blues provide an intriguing commentary. The mood is less bleak than his last set, Albala, recorded when radical Islamists controlled his village, but the title track – Gandadiko roughly translates as Burning Land – is an angry story of suffering and indifference, while Woyé Katé is a call for refugees to return. Elsewhere, there are morality tales about pollution, lazy men and the dangers of easy money, and translations of his powerful, poetic lyrics are thankfully provided – with the exception of those for a slinky trance song written to calm an evil djinn spirit, omitted “for your own security”.
If Samba Touré’s previous album, Albala, recorded during the Islamist coup in northern Mali, carried a lingering sense of sadness, its successor is defiant and powerful. Touré had intended it to capture more of his joyful side, which it partially achieves within the music’s rousing grooves and more electric, searing approach. Yet it does not abandon the darker aspects of life, its title translating as meaning either ‘land of drought’ or ‘burning land’, and the title track exploring the impact of the unrest on Mali’s people, agriculture and economics (‘our tears are not enough to make the ground fertile’).
Last year’s Albala album, a righteous statement of protest recorded amid the religious upheavals that threatened to tear Mali apart, marked Samba Touré out as a vital force in Malian desert blues and a genuine pretender to the throne of his mentor, the late, great Ali Farka Touré. Following such a remarkable work was never likely to be easy and, after a time of relative stability in his homeland, Touré seems less focused on this follow-up. There are conscious attempts to put a more positive slant on his sound, with the Bo Diddley-esque blues stomper Su Wililé (whose lyrics form a cautionary tale of the perils of the demon drink) and the upbeat dance grooves of Touri Idjé Bibi.
Samba Touré's last album Albala packed an inspired punch of rebellious fury as turmoil in Mali was at a peak. Two years later, and with ongoing uncertainty in the north African country, Samba is still fired up as he sings of how to rebuild the "burning land," or "land of drought" - as the title of new record Gandadiko translates from the Songhaï. Having begun his musical career as a singer, Samba was in his 30s when he first picked up a guitar on the recommendation of his mentor, Songhaï blues great Ali Farka Touré (who he toured with in the 1990s), and here he continues to develop his own experimental and electric style of Malian folk.
Afrobeat of all stripes continue to make inroads with Stateside audiences, the most obvious success story being nomadic desert rockers Tinariwen, who record for the Anti- label. Now comes guitarist/vocalist Samba Touré, from Mali. Born in 1968, he achieved regional success early on with Farafina Lolo and Super Lolo, but it was his tutelage under fellow Malian and international blues legend Ali Farka Touré in the late ‘90s that cemented his reputation and gained him initial entrée to the Western music-consuming world.