Ali Farka Toure Radio Mali

Ali Farka Toure was vaulted to the world music frontlines by recording Talking Timbuktu in the early ’90s with inadvertent world music kingmaker Ry Cooder. There’s a clear pattern to what happens to great singers from Africa — Youssou N’Dour, Geoffrey Oryema, Salif Keita to name just three — who’ve reached a world-wide audience. They tend to subsequently become mired in layers of superfluous canned instruments by Western producers. One way to circumvent fears that Toure could go the same route is to release old recordings. As its title suggests, Radio Mali collects live broadcasts Toure made for the state broadcaster in his homeland throughout the ’70s, usually accompanied only by guitar and backing singers, leaving his plaintive, resonant voice in stark relief. Radio Mali is as immediate and compelling a portrait of a great voice and timeless song as I’ve heard in some time. (World Circuit)