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When Malian songwriter and guitarist Sidi Touré first emerged on the international scene in 2011, he was regularly compared to Ali Farka Touré, his countryman and predecessor. There was a similarity in means, sound and even surnames, and both musicians hail from the Songhaï region of Northern Mali. The signature blues-inflected guitar and plaintive vocal melisma of Songhaï folk music carries melodic and repertory characteristics that extend from Ibrahim Dicko—Touré’s mentor—to Ali Fakra Touré’s pioneering work. Over the course of two recordings—last year’s critically-lauded Koïma and his revelatory debut Sahel Folk—and attention from NPR, SPIN and Pitchfork, among others, Touré’s musical identity has fully come into its own.
The winner of two Malian national awards for best singer, Touré led Gao’s regional orchestra, The Songhaï Stars, and, in 2011, he released Sahel Folk, his debut album for Thrill Jockey and toured North America for the first time. This tour took him to prestigious venues and festivals, including New York’s Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, the Chicago World Music Festival, and now…The Center at Eagle Hill.
Sidi Touré recently spoke with Weekends on All Things Considered host Jacki Lyden from WBEZ in Chicago. Within the last 18 months, Islamic extremists have begun fighting in Mali’s northern region. The violence, along with a rebel-imposed ban on both music and secular art, has forced many of Mali’s artists to flee the country. In this NPR interview, Touré explains that it is his duty to continue to make music.