Sidi Touré is back and (with apologies to the folkies up at Newport) he’s gone electric.
The Malian bandleader and guitarist has been on a mellow kick for a while. Since releasing Sahel Folk on Thrill Jockey in 2011, Touré has been putting out albums that feature his gentle tenor against a backdrop of acoustic guitars, kora, filigree horse-hair fiddle, gut-string lute and calabash percussion. In an interview with Afropop back in 2013, Touré said he thought the acoustic guitar penetrates more than the electric, because it’s soft and sweet. They’re great, extremely chill, albums.
For his fourth release on the Chicago indie label, though, Touré takes a page from his desert blues peers. If this first single is any indication, he’s buttressed his voice with those pentatonic electric guitar licks that Tuareg rockers like Vieux Farka Touré play, and a full drum kit, manned by Mamadou “Mandou” Kone, who plays with Vieux Farka Touré.
The result is the ecstatic-sounding “Heyyeya,” which is based a Songhai folklore song about the joy of a new marriage, in keeping with Touré’s penchant for lyrics drawing on Malian proverbs and folk music. While there’s plenty of buzzing electric guitar, there’s also room for the electrified ngoni to step in for a virtuosic solo. An acoustic guitar does anchor the song (although it looks like a hollow-body electric in the video), but either way the song is still penetrating.
Coming out March 23 on Thrill Jockey, the album is called Toubalbero. Touré will tour the U.S. in the spring in support of the album.