Side Toure's mission is to keep Mali's musical traditions alive
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Tuesday, 06 September 2011 10:59
Sidi Toure
Sidi Toure comes from a royal Malian family.
For generations his family from the town of Gao was toasted in song by griots, the singer-songwriters and oral historians found through western Africa.
While long celebrated in song, the family did not celebrate the notion that young Sidi, born in 1959, was interested in himself becoming a musician.
His older brother even destroyed the guitars young Sidi created from his wooden writing slate.
But he persisted and his family relented. His mother, who played traditional violin but only at home, called him the family’s griot, Toure told a the website MundoVibe.
He went on to become the lead singer in his school band and then became the youngest member at 17 of the Songhai Stars.
With that band he toured other west African cultures, and along the way gained his musical education on the road.
Toure will play two sets at the Black Swamp Arts Festival, Sunday at 2 p.m. on the Main Stage and 4 p.m. at the Acoustic Stage.
Toure told MundoVibe that the decline of the traditional music from Gao — the music that accompanied births and funerals, and coming of age ceremonies, music that worked people into trances for they became like horses ridden by sacred spirits — is fading away.
Toure insists that as long as he continues to play, those sounds will not disappear.
Those sounds, and Toure’s contemporary take on them, is represented in “Sahel Folk,” an album of duets with friends and fellow musicians.
They gathered at Toure’s sister’s house, drank tea and talked, and only then with the mood established would they come back and record.
While he draws on traditional sounds, he’s also been influenced by the rockers, such as J.J. Cale, he met in his travels. His music provides a living link to blues sensibility in the Old and New Worlds.
His lyrics may be based on the proverbs and folk tales of his homeland, but he also addresses contemporary issues facing his people.
In “Artiatanat” he urges Malian ex-patriots to return home to help build a new country. “Haallah” is a celebration of farmers. “Bom Koum” is a tale a prodigal who abandons his friends and family and lives in opulence and then finds when his fortune turns that they’ve forgotten him.
Toure has also spoken out in favor of efforts to save the environment. These he expresses in both his native Songhai and French as well as several other local dialects. He told MundoVibe: “Maybe people don’t understand what I sing, but I think the music is the first step to understanding.”

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