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In the Heart of the Moon

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Album Review

In the Heart of the Moon is a duet recording by Malian guitar slinger Ali Farka Toure and Mandé lineage griot Toumani Diabate on kora. There are a few other players who contribute percussion here and there, and Ry Cooder plays a Kawai piano on a couple of tracks and a Ripley guitar on one, but other than these cats, this is a live duo set without edits or enhancements of any kind. There were three sessions in the conference room of the Mande Hotel in Mali, the first of which was on the eve of Farka Toure being elected mayor of his town, Niafunké. Most of the music here dates back to the Jurana Kura (translated as new era) cultural movement, which was part of the independence struggle in the 1950s and early '60s. The music created by the Jurana Kura for the guitar created a entirely new style of rhythmic fingerpicking. For those familiar with Farka Toure's blazing lead style, this disc may come as a shock. While he does solo many times here, he is also playing in balance with Diabate, whose kora has the larger lyric and harmonic palette, so he is in a supporting role. It doesn't matter. Whether the song is "Kaira" (written and performed by Diabate's father in the '50s and the earliest recorded track on the album, from before the Mande sessions), "Ai Ga Bani (I Love You)" and "Soumbou Ya Ya" (both written for young people during the Jurana Kura), or one of Farka Toure's originals near the end of the set, such as "Gomni," the style is the same. Everything echoes this earlier era because it has informed all Malian and Guinean music since. The purpose was to make people aware not only of its existence but to inspire and exhort. The music is insistent but not strident. It contains a gentleness and tenderness that seem to drip from the region, one of the poorest in the world. The players' focus and intensity are captured, but they make it all come off so easily that the listener gets lost in the pleasure of these gorgeous melodies and the call-and-response style of interaction between the players. Simply put, In the Heart of the Moon is nothing short of remarkable, and one of the best offerings World Circuit/Nonesuch have ever released.

Customer Reviews

Loved it!

This is my very first exposure to African music. A friend of mine had recommended it a while ago and now that it got a Grammy as well, there was no second thought. I bought the album today (13 Feb 2006). I am amazed by this music - it is soft, vibrant, and consistent. It flows so effortlessly. Being a huge lover of Indian classical music - especially the Sitar (Ravi Shankar, Nikhil Banerjee), Santoor (Shivkumar Sharma, Rahul Sharma) and Sarod (Ali Akbar Khan, Amjad Ali Khan) - this music made an instant appeal to me. I think this genre is somewhere between the Western (the chords) and Indian (Raga music, based on fixed scales) styles - but unique and fresh with its own character. There are quite a few repititions but it never gets boring. And the absence of drums in some tracks doesn't create a void... Kora doubles up as a melody + rhythm instrument, something like how Santoor does. I sincerely recommend the whole album to everybody, especially for those who prefer peaceful / joyous music with no noisy elements. If you liked this album, you may try out a few albums by Shivkumar Sharma and Rahul Sharma as well - like 'The Elements - Water' and 'The Confluence - Santoor & Piano' - they follow a similar New Age / Thematic /Easy Listening pattern.

Gorgeous music

If you are accustomed to Ali Farka Toure, be prepared for something different -- something more unusual -- something more beautiful. Here Ali Farka Toure is paired with one of the great musicians from Mali, Toumani Diabate. Diabate plays the traditional African instrument - the cora. (If you are interested to see it, look it up on the internet) It has the sound of a harp mixed with a guitar. I've read that the music is entirely improvised. If so, it is a marvel of musicianship. The music is haunting, mystical, calming, and simply lovely. I've used it on my iPod to wake up to in the morning, and I've listened to it over and over as background music while working. If you like guitar music, I think you will like this album very much. Unfortunately, I could never download it from iTunes although I tried repeatedly, so I wound up ordering it from the local store.

Hear This Before You Die

Yep, the other reviewers are right. This is undeniably beautiful music. Incredibly vivid melodies that are simply not to be found in American music. Ali Farka Toure is a master guitarist and Toumani's wizardry on what sounds like an African sitar is nothing short of breathtaking. If you have taken the time to read this, trust me and buy any cut as a sample. I am confident you'll be hooked and thankful for your introduction to a new world of music. Then buy the rest and hunt down other Ali Farka Toure recordings (The River, The Source), and then other wonderful African musicians: Salif Keita, Baaba Maal, Amadou and Miriam, Oliver Mtukudzi, and Issa Bagayogo to name a few. You've probably already heard of Youssou N'Dour. Highly recommended.


Born: 1939 in Timbuktu

Genre: World

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

One of the most internationally successful West African musicians of the '90s, Ali Farka Touré was described as "the African John Lee Hooker" so many times that it probably began to grate on both Touré's and Hooker's nerves. There is a lot of truth to the comparison, however, and it isn't exactly an insult. The guitarist, who also played other instruments such as calabash and bongos, shared with Hooker (and similar American bluesmen...
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In the Heart of the Moon, Ali Farka Touré
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