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Top 10 World Music CDs

ALI FARKA TOURE
December , 2006

Savane
Nonesuch

This is no knee-jerk reaction. Yes, Toure passed on this year (our eulogy was the July issue's cover story) after succumbing to the ravages of bone cancer, but he left us one hell of a final studio effort. Abandoning his usual off-the-cuff approach to music making, the legendary guitarist dug in and worked particularly hard to get each detail just right on Savane. His voice is far stronger than the whisper of a man's last gasp for air, yet the singing has the conviction of an artist who knew the end was coming. His primordial blues music-he always argued that his ngoni and other shades of traditional Malian music came before the American blues to which his work was so often compared-was played on acoustic instruments, for the most part (even with unlikely guests like American saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis and Greek bluesman Little George Sueref on harmonica). Of course this has a traditional sound, with plaintive background singers answering Toure's booming voice and hand percussion making it sound like it could be recorded nowhere else than in his home town of Niafunke. He felt this was his best album, and we find it hard to argue with him.