Ali Farke Toure Savane

The tremendous loss of Ali Farke Toure earlier this year has only been somewhat soothed by the coda he left behind. Savane, his final album, is part of a trilogy of records recorded in a mobile studio in Bamako, Mali (the first was Grammy winning In The Heart of the Moon, a collaboration with Toumani Diabaté; the second is an upcoming debut of Diabaté’s pan-African Symmetric Orchestra). Savane is a defining musical statement, a calling card of the primordial blues, a desert blues requiem, and is among the best music Toure has released. American blues aficionados have always found much to love in Toure’s music and they will surely swoon over Savane. Toure is joined by his small band of n’goni players (African lutes), as well as percussionists and occasionally other instrumentalists. Intro track "Erdi” is a swirling mass of mojo — the closest thing to psychedelic African blues can get without a phaser and a wah wah — complete with wailing harmonicas and mesmerising and agitating multi-rhythm guitars. "Beto” is a walking tempo blues with Toure’s jeurkel melodies weaving in and out on the electric guitar while a tenor saxophone spurts out occasional responses. Toure’s link with the Northern Mali spirit world never seems far from the surface of his music giving these songs an intensity, otherworldliness and even a metaphorical density — even when the instrumentation is sparse. One can’t help but wish Western blues still had the same vitality. Toure first made his name transposing indigenous Malian music to the guitar; now at the end of his life, for many around the world the sound of Toure’s guitar has become the definition of West African music. Savane is a fitting final gift. (Nonesuch)