It can't be easy to fill the shoes of a father who was known internationally as one of Africa's greatest musicians, but Vieux Farka Toure is managing just fine. His father, Ali Farka Toure — from Niafunke in northern Mali, near Timbuktu — introduced the world to a unique musical mix of Malian desert traditions and American blues. This desert blues style has been much imitated in the years since, but Ali Farka Toure was its master. His son, Vieux, emerged on his own right around the time of his father's death in 2006, with the release of his self-titled debut, on which he was joined by his father in one of the elder musician's last recordings.
Vieux has been touring non-stop through the summer, at concerts and festivals across North America. He performed at Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival in early September, and this included a stop at KEXP's Bumbershoot Music Lounge stage. His band included two former members of his father's band: guitarist Aly Magassa and percussionist Souleymane Kane on djembe and calabash, along with bassist Mamadou Sidibe and American drummer Tim Kieper. In this acoustic setting, drummer Kieper switches over to various handmade percussion; together, they play a six-song set. The show featured works from their excellent new album, Fondo, as well as a song by his father. (They include a song of his in all of their sets as a way of paying tribute.)
Vieux Farka Toure has indeed found his own voice, which builds on the traditions of his father but also moves in a more electric blues-rock direction. When I told him that his father performed at this same Bumbershoot Festival back in 1993 — on his way to L.A. to record his breakthrough album Talking Timbuktu with Ry Cooder — Vieux smiled, delighting in the knowledge that he's continuing in his father's footsteps.