Conceived and composed as he anticipated his country’s march towards war, Vieux Farka Touré’s Mon Pays is simultaneously new and old territory for the self-described griot. The album is rooted in tradition, whether it be song forms or instruments. But oddly enough, this largely acoustic style is actually a step away from Vieux’s standard electric fare, and there’s little doubt that the music benefits from that change.
Which is not to say that Vieux needed to change at all. His 2011 release, Secrets, was not only a decidedly louder and more electric record, featuring guest performances from artists like Derek Trucks and Dave Matthews, but also an excellent album. But where songs like “Aigna” had a real heat to them, Mon Pays finds Touré cooler, calmer, and altogether more relaxed. That’s unsurprising for an album that, according to its creator, “...is a statement for the world that this land is for the sons and daughters of Mali, not for Al Qaeda or any militants. This land is for peace and beauty, rich culture, and tolerance.”
Tracks like the opener, “Diack So”, sound like a call for harmony and unity. Like much Malian music, this song finds its groove early and rides it all the way home. Part and parcel to Vieux's return to musical stylings closer to those of his ancestors (or at least his father), a sense of the bucolic prevails in this song, and indeed through much of the album. The track “Peace” finds itself in similar territory. The instrumental track is as delicate as its namesake, and is perfectly sequenced as the penultimate track. The contrast between “Peace” and the closer, the melancholy and plaintive “Ay Bokoy”, speaks volumes about contemporary Mali.
But even when Vieux is playing with more dangerous grooves and ominous tonalities, like on “Ay Bokoy” and “Yer Gando”, there is a lightness to the compositions and recordings that reflect the hopeful intentions underpinning the record. “Allah Wawi” is the closest this album gets to a feeling of malice, but maybe malice is just too strong of a word- with its group vocals and ostinato bass line, “Allah Wawi” sounds more like a group exorcising its demons than moving towards war.
The man succeeded. Touré aimed for a collection of songs that spoke to Malians specifically, reminding them of their roots and the potential for unity and peace. Mon Pays is an album that evokes those feelings, and reminds the listener just how precious they are.
Head to http://www.vieuxfarkatoure.com/ for info on where to find the album and all things Vieux Farka Touré.