My Favorite West African Music, Part I: Mali Blues


Back in 1995, my dad got me a birthday gift: an Encarta Encyclopedia 95 CD-ROM. I spent hours every day just surfing it, learning all kinds of random things. Most interestingly, I got the opportunity to look up music samples from all over the world. One particular sample that I found captivating was a song called "Jungou" by late Malian musician Ali Farka Toure, the father of Mali Blues.

I then found out that Ali Farka Toure is also known as the father of Mali Blues. It's a style of blues music influenced by Delta Blues, which he was exposed to when he was visiting the US in the past. Here is an interview with American Blues musician Correy Harris:

Source: "The Blues" documentary series produced by Martin Scorsese

Ali Farka Toure sang in a few languages, and I could recognize Tamashek, Songhay, and Bambara. He is a major influence on many, many musical artists out there. There are a number of examples:

Afel Bocoum - "Niger"; I believe this song is in Songhay.

Tinariwen - "Lulla"

Tinariwen are a Tuareg musical group whose members are from Northern Mali. The members of this group met in Libya in the 70's, where they were refugees after an uprising in Northern Mali. Some of them even participated in the conflict. Tinariwen particularly play a variety called Tuareg Blues, though they are heavily influenced by Ali Farka Toure's music as well.

Boureima "Vieux" Farka Touré - "Wosoubour"

Vieu Farka Toure is the the eldest son of Ali Farka Toure. He has a few good songs that I like, but Wosoubour is my personal favorite. It has the bluesiest feel compared to the others. While his style is similar to his father's, it reflects heavier influence from more contemporary and popular music of the time.

Songhoy Blues - "Nick"

Songhoy Blues are another more recent Blues group from Mali. Songhoy Blues was also formed by refugees as in the case of Tinariwen. However, they were displaced due to another conflict in Northern Mali between the government and Islamist extremists (who unsurprisingly "frown on" music, if you know what I mean).

Another Songhoy Blues song that I like is "Al Hassidi Terei", in part because of its music video (which (WARNING!) may induce motion sickness in some of those susceptible to it, so you have been warned). It's really good though.


Bassekou Kouyate - "Désert Nianafing" feat. Amy Sacko, Afel Bocoum & Ahmed ag Kaedi


Consider this a very small sample. Thanks to the internet generally, and YouTube especially, you can look up even more related music.

Coming Up:

Part II: Gnawa

Nuru Kane - "Bambala"

My Favorite West African Music, Part I: Mali Blues
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  • howlyz
    I like it, not sure if I heard of Ali Farka I need to check it out still but I have heard of Tinariven and I like it. Always nice to see when someone is interested in different styles and backgrounds of music, atm I am in a kind of hiatus from seriously engaging into music lol, but when I do I really enjoy it completely.
    This album crossed my mind when I saw your My Take, in my opinion it is a real gem EP and it is a part of the music history of course , so check it out if you have some 30 minutes free time, and the you tube channel is also fantastic for music lovers in my opinion.
    So here is the album, hope you enjoy it if you decide to listen to it..

    W. I. T. C. H. (We Intend To Cause Havoc) Garage and Psychedelic Rock Band from Zambia in the 1970's. First Zambian band to record and release a commercial album. Label: Zambia Music Parlour ‎– ZMPL 5 Format: Vinyl, LP, Album Country: Zambia Released: 1974
    • howlyz

      I consider it more as an EP as it's some 28 minutes long

    • NICE! That's some really sweet ear-candy!
      Once the guitar comes in, it just elevates it!

    • howlyz

      That's exactly what it is I agree, an ear-candy, glad you liked it!

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