Saturday, January 27, 2007

Vieux and New School

In recent years, remixes done under the auspices of the Creative Commons initiative have increased. The site offers free tools and sample material for anyone to reconfigure however they like
Last year, the most famous example were the remixes generated from ingredients of David Byrne and Brian Eno's My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts. However, I've never seen an African artist do this - unless DB & BE's Fourth World-ish project counts. Even more unusually, the artist in question hasn't even released his first album yet and already the remixes, both of the high profile variety and CC'ed on the table.
The artist is Vieux Farka Toure, son of the late great Ali Farka Toure. He releases his debut album in early February, but has already had about 4 months of press coverage in Canada due to the Toronto base of the album's producer. The album is very much like the elder Toure's work; bluesy and acoustic. In fact, this album represents the last session recorded by Ali prior to his death last year, and also contains the world's foremost kora player, Toumani Diabate who is Vieux's mentor. The difference in generations seems to be that the younger Toure plays at a much more sprightly pace, and with a more even, less swinging cadence. Moreover, his first instrument was the calabash - think of an upturned salad bowl played for percussive effect. I reckon all these characteristics would breed good sample stock.
I could never imagine the elder Toure doing this. He was notoriously cranky about dealing with the machinations of the music business, and the last 10 years of his life saw him produce only 1 album prior to the flurry of work he completed just before his death. He would most likely not have allowed his music to be used for free, and I suspect he would have been mistrustful of slicing and dicing his songs into mere snippets for the sake of sonic curiosity.
The difference between father and son here reminds me of when I interviewed Femi Kuti, who knew what he was in for when he signed to a major, but was nonetheless prepared to play the game his father had hated so much. The difference between the global career possibilities open to Femi seven years ago (when major labels still ruled the world) and Vieux's situation right now are summed up in this intriguing project.
Vieux plays the Kuumba festival at Harbourfront Centre on February 10.

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