Ali Farka Touré is enjoying a lively posthumous career. First there came Savane, a solo album released soon after his demise in 2006, and now Ali & Toumani. This latest album, one which reprises the Malian blues guitarist’s relationship with kora maestro Toumani Diabaté (they last appeared together, with Ry Cooder, on 2005’s lauded In the Heart of the Moon), is fashioned from something so simple as a three-day studio encounter. And from the opening instrumental ‘Ruby’, a lovely, flowing give-and-take of intervals and arpeggios, it’s clear that there’s a musical conversation going on, full of profound listening and responses.
Consequently, it’s an intimate album with the space for real spontaneity: ‘Fantasy’ came out of an on-the-spot improvisation by Diabaté and there are places where you hear the men murmur their encouragement to one another. Many of the album’s 11 tunes reflect the music of significant times in Mali’s recent history: ‘56’; ‘Sina Mory’, a song that tells the story of a mythic warrior; ‘Machengoidi’, one that urges Malians to work for the good of their country. If these worthy topics sound tiresome, in the hands of Touré and Diabaté, they are anything but. There’s a lightness in this recording that illuminates the entire project and the entwined lines of guitar and kora stand for something altogether greater. It is a loss that we will not see their like again.