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World Music CD Reviews Africa

Daby Touré

By Robert Kaye
Published July 31, 2006

Diam
Real World

Daby Touré was raised in rural Mauritania, situated twixt Moorish North Africa and sub-Saharan black Africa. Later, when his father left his medical career in Africa to begin a musical one in Paris, Daby received his “higher education” there, absorbing its pliant music mix of Occident and Orient.

While he was still living in Africa, Touré had discovered the commercial world of Western pop music. Some of his childhood influences included the Police, Dire Straits, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. Yet Touré had been highly discouraged from nurturing his own musical wanderlust when he was a youngster. Still, he managed to teach himself the rudiments of guitar, bass and percussion—behind his father’s back.

But after his father had moved to Paris to join other family members in their music venture, it was more difficult to rein in the boy’s creative spirit. In lieu of his father’s protestations, Touré left his courses at business school to follow his own Muse.

He eventually teamed up with his cousin Omar and formed Touré Touré. A serendipitous meeting with the keyboardist Jean-Pierre Como from the acclaimed world jazz group Sixun helped them create the album Laddé. With the assistance of fellow top-flight Sixun musicians, Touré Touré explored the vistas of jazz and African music. And Laddé did quite well; the assembled cast and crew toured Europe, Canada, Brazil and the U.S. Despite the group’s success, Touré was dissatisfied.

Questing to find his true musical voice, Daby disbanded Touré Touré and sequestered himself in his home studio in order to create his own aural artistry. It was important for him to be in control of the entire process: writing, arranging, performing and mixing. Touré spent several years in its making. The result: Diam. Touré succeeded in creating a compelling roots/pop/world-influenced folk album. Eventually collaborating with producer and digital wizard Cyrille Dufay, part of the album’s appeal is due in part to its transparent recording and production techniques.

Diam means peace, and features lyrics that discuss personal relationships, Touré’s familial history, freedom, perseverance during arduous times and other topics pertinent to the artist, with a salute to his family’s origins in Senegal.

The album was shopped around to nearly every major record label in France. Luckily for Touré, Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records released it worldwide. An extra perk: Touré was asked to join Gabriel on his “Still Growing Up” tour, and also appeared on the main stage at WOMAD 2004 Festival.

On most of the album’s 13 tracks, Touré is the primary instrumentalist and vocalist although on most songs, he enlists the help of a musician or two. Unlike Laddé, which cavorted through Afro-jazz fusion styles, Diam is more of a modern-day folk celebration. Hence, most of the songs are of a fairly provincial nature regarding their form and orchestration: straightforward and unfettered. The songs are strongly imbued with a distinctively rural African flavor, yet also evident are urban and international elements. Accordingly, Touré proudly embraces his heritage but is not tightly gripped by it.

Resilient and appealing throughout is Touré’s voice—it’s easy to understand why Gabriel asked Touré to tour with him. Whether he’s singing with full-throated bravado or nearly whispering a gentle lullaby-like melody, Touré’s emotive vocals transcend language barriers and stir your heart. While the album’s liner notes do provide a brief synopsis about each song, Touré’s lyrics would be better served if they’d also been included, along with translations in English and French.

Scanning the album, “Yaw” is a memorable, upbeat track, with Touré’s voice singing resiliently throughout. A strong multi-instrumentalist, as on most tracks, he’s playing guitars, bass guitar, percussion and other i