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Vieux Farka Touré - Komedia - 20th January 2016

Vieux Farka Touré - Komedia - 20th January 2016

Vieux Farka Touré put on a show the likes of which can rarely be seen in Brighton. Playing to a cabaret-style Komedia basement, the son of legendary folk guitarist Ali Farka Toure appeared in traditional Malian dress while using the most modern of performance rigs. He trod a fine line between staying faithful to his musical roots, while being irresistibly innovative, playing a set that was welcomingly alien.

The standard tagline for Touré is “the Hendrix of the Sahara”. In some ways the comparison makes sense, but at the end of the day it’s misleading. Sure, Touré’s fingers are lightning-fast, and in terms of skill the two guitarists may be on a parallel. But their styles are utterly different, Touré’s sound in general being light as a feather. He favours delay over distortion, playing soft and speedy melodies with overtones of Malian folk-guitar that culminates in a strangely dreamy and blissful sonic atmosphere.

Having said that, there were moments later in the show where he jammed out, playing blistering solos in longer, improvisational and blues-infused tracks. In doing so he proved his versatility as a guitarist and played a varied show that represented his Malian roots, while being hugely accessible for an audience on the south coast of England. Touré’s open smile and obvious pleasure at once again being in Brighton also added to this accessibility.

The trio who backed him was minimal but water-tight, consisting only of Touré’s guitar and vocals along with a bass guitar and drums. Despite their size, together they made more than enough noise to fill the Komedia. They shone particularly on longer tracks where they could relax into the groove, but elsewhere did some very impressive mirroring of the lead guitar melodies in the complex slowdowns that ended some of the songs. With their support, Touré did not need eight or five musicians to play an absorbing gig: he did just fine with three.

Some of the group’s songs were in French, but the majority were in Bambara, the most widely-spoken language in Mali. On top of this, Touré’s vocal melodies were on the whole traditionally West-African, very different from what you might hear at your average Brighton gig: West African music is related to the roots of American Blues, but occupies its own territory and has since widely diverged. Again, it was an extraordinary concert in part just because this is genre of music isn’t often seen in Brighton. Although the audience couldn’t understand the vast majority of the lyrics, they didn’t feel left out - Touré’s easy and friendly manner made sure they felt at home. He encouraged the crowd to join in, spelling out the sounds of call-and-repeat refrains, and teaching everyone a few words in Bambara.

Although it began as a sort of showcase, with everyone sat at candle-lit tables, throughout the concert it became more and more inclusive, as everyone was invited to sing, and finally to dance. There were perhaps 250 places at the concert - the rest of Brighton missed a concert that was pretty rare.

Ben Noble

 





















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