Samba Toure – Gandadiko

Guitarist/vocalist Samba Touré, from Mali, born in 1968, achieved regional success early on with Farafina Lolo and Super Lolo, but it was his tutelage under fellow Malian and international blues legend Ali Farka Touré in the late ‘90s that cemented his reputation and gained him entrée to the Western music-consuming world. (He also worked with Kora maestro Toumani Diabate.) With 2011’s Crocodile Blues and 2013’s Albala his star was clearly on the rise, and although his Stateside audience initially hewed towards the – I quote a slightly cynical friend here – “crunchy NPR crowd,” let’s face it, Afrobeat of all stripes has steadily made inroads here. And with good justification, too, because there’s something undeniably earthy, melodically compelling and rhythmically unique going on that defies such rote (read: Caucasian) descriptions.

So let’s bring it down to a more conversive level: Gandadiko is psychedelic as shit, and at least as funky as that slab of vintage early ‘70s vinyl your local crate digger was bragging about down at the club last weekend. Reference points include, not so improbably enough, everything from such blues icons as Bo Diddley (check the signature thump of “Su Wililé”) and John Lee Hooker (the droning tones of “Wo Yendé Alakar” recall “I’m In the Mood”) to Dire Straits (his clean, resonant guitar licks in “Farikoyo” are pure Mark Knopfler) and Jimi Hendrix (“Gafouré,” with its rapid-fire rhythmic and fretboard shifts alongside what appear to be – pardon my obvious language barrier here – urgent grunts and sundry vocal come-ons).

Not that the record is in any way a series of concessions to Western styles. It’s hypnotic in and of itself, and all impressions are purely in the ears/mind of the listener. This is 100% African music, not an exercise in fusion. But it’s also a decidedly rock ‘n’ roll album that aims to bridge continental constraints, one which makes sense – and gets the hips, ass and feet moving – regardless of geography, culture, or disposition.

Samba Touré
[Glitter Beat Germany]