Sidi Toure: A Reverent Smile In Song

May 17, 2012
Originally published on April 5, 2018 12:18 pm

It's become virtually impossible to talk about the music of Sidi Touré without referencing the governmental crisis in his home country of Mali. The weight and particulars of Touré's work are rooted and steeped in that region, all of which casts a heavy shadow over his unofficial ambassadorship, but nothing standing could darken the intention or spirit of his music.

"Ni See Ay Ga Done," from this year's Koïma, is warm and connective, transcendent of whatever short fence language could attempt to place around a song. You don't need to understand the words that Touré and his childlike backing singer project in their pensive waves — praising and thanking early supporter Aminata Maïga for her patronage to the Songhaï culture, the roots of Touré's work — to feel a reverent smile jumping out from every corner.

The traditional, driving takamba rhythm of one-two-three (or one-two-three-four-five) forms the song's spine and the legs, maintaining forward momentum for Touré and his players' melodies as they meander and shimmer across and into each other. The interplay of Touré's guitar and the equal-in-the-mix kuntigui, a plucked instrument with a similar melancholic timbre to the Chinese huqin — as well as the sokou, a traditional violin as dry-sounding as balsa wood — cohere into a twinkling, masterful lattice. Meanwhile, somewhere, Touré is probably creating.

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