Ali Farka Touré's popularity, along with his admitted influence by not only local ngoni tradition, but American blues and soul, has sent everyone from Taj Mahal to Corey Harris in search of that “lost chord” connecting Afro-American blues with West African griot tradition. It’s also resurrected the career of Boubacar Traoré, a veteran singer/guitarist who’d been a star on Malian radio at the dawn of its early 1960s independence.
Though he made no recordings at the time, his “Mali Twist” woke newly independent Malians every morning. In fact, Traoré focused on making a living for his family; music took a back seat to agriculture and tailoring. He eventually left his home country after his wife died, moving to Paris in the late ’80s, where he worked construction. A chance recording in England, however, brought him not only back to his music, but back home to Mali. His playing involves a pentatonic scale similar to Farka Toure’s, as well as North Mississippi one-chord masters Fred McDowell or Rainey Burnette, making it instantly familiar to anyone steeped in the southern U.S. blues tradition.
There’s also a melancholy and wistfulness in Traoré’s guitar curlicues that give him a spookiness comparable to that of Delta virtuoso Skip James. In fact, where Farka Toure often seems to be pushing his music outward, Traoré seems to be playing deep inside his gut with an intensity not unlike that of the late Junior Kimbrough. In his later years, Traoré now commands sizable audiences in the U.S. and Europe, as well as his native Mali, and regularly releases consistently astounding albums.
Kar Kar (Stern’s)
The Best Of Boubacar Traoré: The Bluesman From Mali (Wrasse)
Kongo Magni (World Village)