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Live Reviews

Fallou Deing & Vieux Farka Toure
June 28, 2008

By Ernest Barteldes

Central Park Summerstage
New York City

An enthusiastic crowd and and odd weather pattern greeted Nigerian-born Fallou Dieng as he entered the stage at Central Park Summerstage, on his second major performance in New York this year (he also played at Global Fest last January). The music Dieng plays is highly based on percussion, which motivated his fans to dance non-stop – especially when a dancer emerged onstage with sensual, catchy moves.


During his set, Dieng explored his various influences, doing a catchy reggae-inflected number that was still African in essence, bringing forth the twisting guitar technique of one of his bandmembers. Dieng might not yet have fully developed his stage persona, modeled after his mentor Yossou N' Dour, but he is clearly a work in progress. In one of the numbers, there was some call-and-response between the singer and the audience, and the musicians took every opportunity to improvise during solos.


A torrential summer rain was falling when Vieux Farka Toure and his six-piece backing band entered the stage. Dressed in an impeccable blue outfit, he started out with “Diarraby,” only slightly marred by a few technical glitches with the sound system which were quickly resolved before he went on to “Karo,” an upbeat guitar-based tune.


For “Ana,” his drummer took the front of the stage with a pandeiro in hand, showing great dexterity with the Brazilian instrument and then returning to the drumkit for “Cherie,” which has more of a rock structure. In a highly emotional moment, one of his percussionists took the mike and said, “The Baobab didn't die, because his son is here today,” a reference to the late Ali Farka Toure, who passed away from cancer in 2006.


With a smile in his face, Vieux carried on as thousands danced away completely oblivious of the heavy rain falling from the skies – from the point of view of stage left, it seemed like the fans were entranced by some sort of baptismal cleansing of the soul.


Toure closed precisely at 6:30 with “Sarama”, a high-energy tune that left everyone with smiles on their faces, happy to have been there for one of this season's best outdoor performances at Summerstage so far.