Vieux Farka Touré: The Secret

Latest release continues a remarkable evolution.

Vieux Farka Touré

The Secret

Label: Six Degrees
US Release Date: 2011-05-24
UK Release Date: 2011-05-23

Vieux Farka Touré's 2010 live album was heavy on the electrified side of the electric/traditional equation, with effects-laden guitars and thundering bass propelling through high-energy takes on his tunes, most of which were taken from the 2009 release Fondo. Given that his debut album was a more organic affair, it remained to be seen in which direction Vieux would be moving, toward tradition or modernity. In light of The Secret, the none-too-clear answer is: both.

Vieux's dad, Ali Farka Touré, was plenty plugged-in himself, so it's not exactly a break with tradition that the electric guitars retain a strong presence here. But where Ali tended toward the downtempo and trance-inducing, Touré junior is fond of uptempo rave-ups and shredding guitar solos. There is a good deal of that on the new record too, but it's balanced nicely with a selection of slower, more melodic numbers.

The opening track keeps you guessing, though. "Sokosondou" features a lilting rhythm over polyrhythmic percussion, a bouncing bassline and Vieux's sounding-older-than-he-really-is vocals. Although fast-paced and guitar-driven, it's a lovely tune that wouldn’t sound out of place on a more "traditional" record. As if to shake off that expectation before it has time to materialize, follow-up tune "Aigna" features copious guitar noodling by sometime Allman Brother and all-around guitar whiz Derek Trucks. East-meets-West musical mash-ups are not always promising -- remember Youssou N'Dour and Neneh Cherry's egregious "7 Seconds"? -- but this track is a delight. Maybe Vieux learned a thing about collaboration from watching his father record one of the all-time classics of the genre, Talking Timbuktu, with Ry Cooder. Whatever the reason, "Aigna" is a killer track, and Trucks' swampy, distorted guitar fits right in.

Sadly, the same cannot be said for Dave Matthews, whose unremarkable voice tarnishes "All the Same" to the point where the song is altogether forgettable. Hearing these two songs back-to-back is an education in why collaboration is a sometimes thing. Matthews is simply too bland to add anything to the swirling stew that Vieux has created, whereas Trucks chips in his own singular contribution, but avoids taking over.

There are other collaborations on the record, but they are subsumed to the overall vibe of the disc. As mentioned, that vibe veers between stadium raucousness and reflective tradition. Reflection comes to the fore in "Wonda Guay" and "Ali", the latter presumably named after Vieux's father and similar in tempo and sound to some of his classic recordings. "Lakkal" picks up the pace a bit and offers some funky organ -- another example of a musical mash-up that works well.

The back half of the album matches the first in terms of variety and approach. "The Secret" clocks in at nearly seven minutes and establishes a repetitive, hypnotic groove that is so well suited to Vieux's chiming guitars. "Sankare Diadje" and "Amani Quai" features chanted, unison vocals and steady beats underlaid by layers of percussive complexity. Album closer "Touri" slows things down a bit, brings back some subtle keyboards and ends the proceedings on a sweet note.

At this point, Vieux Farka Touré is very much his own man as a musician and recording artist, which is an astonishing thing to say about someone whose career has been so short and whose father was so dominant in the field. It is exciting to wonder where his creativity and talent will take him next. Judging from this release, it could be anywhere.


From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.