About this project
I am planning a project to honor the life and music of Malian singer, composer and guitarist Ali Farka Toure (1939 - 2006). He was the only surviving son of ten siblings born to his parents, nobles of the Songhai ethnic group. Ali grew up hearing his father's griots (poets, historians, judges, and musicians -- the attendants of all noble and royal families) as they played music and recounted the epic legends that comprise Songhai history. It was forbidden for the noble-born to aspire to play music, but Ali did not let that stop him. He was also a prosperous farmer, cattleman and landowner. At one time in his career he even quit music to devote himself to farming and the development of his community of Niafunke. It is said that he supported 80% of the town's economy through his various businesses. His middle name means 'donkey' -- appropriate for a man who supported so many. However, as Ali often said, "I'm the donkey that nobody climbs on!" In his last years he retired from touring and was elected mayor of his town of Niafunke. He passed away in 2006 from bone cancer.
In the book, I will trace his evolution from a young boy in the village of Niafunke to a prosperous farmer, businessman and world-renowned musician. I want to discuss what motivated him to make music: farming, culture, history and tradition. While in Mali in 2008 I interviewed his son Hasay Toure, and his lifelong servant, Hamdoun Kele. I will visit Kanau, the small village where he was born and return to Niafunke to interview other members of his immediate family. In Bamako (Mali's capital city) I plan to interview guitarists Djelimady Tounkara and Boubacar Traore, balaphonist Keletigui Diabate, and Toumani Diabate, the kora-player who collaborated with Ali on his last recorded works for which they won a Grammy. In the US, I have interviewed his Ali's other son, Vieux Farka Toure (an amazing performer in his own right) and Habib Koite, a singer/guitarist from Bamako who recounted his memories of the master. A companion cd is also planned, featuring collaborative performances inspired by Ali Farka Toure. As Ali was so widely known and respected, I am sure that I will meet many others who knew him and can provide insight into his life and music.
The money I seek will be used for myself and a videographer/assistant to travel to Mali and visit various cities and towns where those who best knew Ali reside. The funds will allow me to devote the necessary time to finish the manuscript and the cd upon my return to the US. I will then present the manuscript to publishers who have already expressed an interest (e.g. University of Indiana Press, Temple University Press). Funds will also be used for professional mixing, mastering, cd duplication and printing costs. The people that I interview and record will be paid honorariums for their time and effort.
I am confident that with the generous support of the kickstarter community of donors we can make this dream a reality and honor one of the greatest musicians of the last century. Presently, there is no comprehensive study of the man and his music. Ali Farka Toure made an indelible impression on the music of Africa and the world. He also had a profound impact on my personal outlook and my music. This project is a way to express my gratitude and share his accomplishments with those who may not have heard of him. Thanks for your support!
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