Vieux Farka Toure: Of Bamako And Banjos

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Vieux Farka Toure

Vieux Farka Toure's self-titled debut album features his father on two tracks. Brian Blauser hide caption

toggle caption Brian Blauser

Vieux Farka Toure learned to play guitar by jamming along to recordings of his father, renowned Malian musician Ali Farka Toure. But his music isn't always like the "desert trance" blues for which his father became known.

West Africa also plays a small but important role in the history of country music — specifically, regarding the banjo. In Vieux Farka Toure's set at the Paramount Center for the Arts in Bristol Tenn./Va., he features Mama Sissoko on ngoni, the earliest predecessor to the modern banjo.

Toure grew up in Bamako, the capital city of Mali. Though he played calabash (a dried gourd drum) and other percussion growing up, his father didn't want Vieux to face the same struggles he had as a musician, and encouraged him to become a soldier. But Vieux secretly took up the guitar behind closed doors, and later enrolled in the Arts Institute in Bamako — the same institution where Habib Koite and many noted Malian musicians studied. Vieux's self-titled 2007 debut album is full of homages to his father, to other elders in his community, and to the people of Mali.



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