Review: Vieux Farka Toure, Buxton Opera House

2Vieux Farka Toure, son of Ali, is clearly taking on his father’s mantle in developing African Saharan music; a fusion of Malian with African-American traditions; the very ‘DNA of the blues’ according to film director, Martin Scorsese.

Last night at the Pavilion Arts Centre, in Buxton, Toure provided an exhilarating concert with driving, mesmerising rhythms and rapid-fire flurries together with passages of great lyricism.

Most of the pieces were at a quick pace, with just a few slower, more insistent bluesy creations. I found these slower renditions really seductive – more, please Vieux!?

Toure spent the evening solely on his electric guitar backed by drums and a bass guitar.

He is masterly on acoustic guitar too but there was no place for it in this concert. The other two musicians in the trio provided mostly background support (Jean-Alain Hohy – bass and Jean-Paul Melindji – drums), but they had a more prominent role in the final few pieces to good effect; providing tight rhythm and vocal support.

Toure has a modest presence and a quiet smile; but this doesn’t prevent him slowly developing rapport with the audience. He spoke a little more as the concert unfolded; offering a happy birthday riff to one lucky man and smiling gently with a few of the audience compelled to dance.

At one point he alluded to the current difficulties in Mali with Islamic fundamentalism and implied that the following piece explored that territory, but since he sang in his mother tongue and French, it was mostly impossible to understand his message. Some explanatory notes on the programme would have been helpful.

All in all, this was a really inspiring evening including the introductory session with Irish folk singer Alan Burke; singing with a very mixed programme of 19th century songs about British injustice in oppressing the poor and songs about the vagaries of young love in rural Ireland. But the clear star of the evening was Toure – palpably appealing to a very mixed age audience.

Everyone is grateful that Vieux’s father, Ali, did not prevent him becoming a musician. Let us hope he is back in Buxton soon.

By Martin Thomas