Thursday, July 16, 2009
A torrent of questions arose amid the global mourning over Michael Jackson's sudden passing. Was he addicted to prescription pain meds? How much was he actually worth? Did his father's abuse scar the star beyond repair? Speaking of paternal influence, will 12-year-old Prince Michael Jackson follow his famous father's musical calling? If he displays even an ounce of MJ's talent, the pressure will be enormous.
A similar scenario played out in the African music world following the 2006 passing of Malian blues guitarist Ali Farka Touré from bone cancer. Farka Touré's son Vieux expressed an early interest in music, but his father objected, hoping to shelter him from a professional musician's grueling tour circuit. It didn't work. Vieux picked up the guitar, releasing a self-titled debut on Modiba/World Village in late 2006, followed by the creative, youth-embracing Remixed: UFOs Over Bamako (Modiba) in 2007. With guidance from legendary Malian kora player Toumani Diabat, the younger Touré's first two releases express a reverence for his father's emotive, blues-soaked guitar style while exploring rock and electronic music interests.
These traditional and modern threads entwine so thoroughly that they fuse on the new Fondo (Six Degrees). Vieux gives voice to swirling Saharan dust storms on the energetic "Sarama," explores Mali's quiet spirituality on "Paradise" (featuring Diabate's kora solos) and ponders West African struggles in the 21st century on the reggae-tinged "Diaraby Magni." Like his father, Vieux's music has taken him from Bamako, Mali to Bonnaroo, the massive Tennessee music festival where his American summer tour begins. As U.S. indie bands like Vampire Weekend and Fools Gold incorporate African rhythms into their repertoires, it's worth hearing a talented African guitar hero whose taste for rock isn't just skin deep, it's in his DNA.
VIEUX FARKA TOURÉ With Luke Top, DJ Jeremiah. Sat/18, 8 p.m., $20. The Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1420. www.theindependentsf.com