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BBC – Music – Review of The Touré-Raichel Collective

Written by on October 23, 2020

When leading his own band, guitarist Vieux Farka Touré has lately been getting increasingly deeper into the Hendrixian electric zone, his Malian desert roots steadily saturated by rock’n’roll seepage.

This project reveals a different aspect, as Touré comes closer again to his heritage, concentrating on the acoustic guitar. He’s now sounding nearer to the musical spirit of his departed father, Ali Farka.

The other half of this album’s fresh equation is the Israeli keyboardist Idan Raichel, whose reputation is still somewhat underground outside his homeland and probably bigger in the USA than Europe. Even though this collaboration is equally billed, the tunes mostly sound closer to a Malian source. It’s an unlikely teaming, forged out of a chance meeting between the two artists on the road.

Raichel is the producer of this improvised session, which lasted just three hours. The participants began in a jamming frame, then subsequently refined the results into repeatable tunes, arranging on the hoof. They don’t sound improvised, but these linear pieces were created in totally spontaneous fashion, with only a few subsequent overdubs. Raichel and Touré were joined by Israeli bassist Yossi Fine and Malian percussionist Souleymane Kane on calabash.

Raichel favours the acoustic piano, frequently preparing its strings or dampening them with his fingers. Several of the pieces work in a subliminal vocal humming, thickening the textures into a dense sound. When Raichel starts off Experience, the track possessing a noticeably Middle Eastern vibration, his style is reminiscent of Maurice El Médioni’s Jewish-Algerian orientalism.

Guest Frédéric Yonnet plays harmonica on Touré, setting off at a sprightly pace. He gets a solo bridge, accompanied solely by minimal percussion, growling into his harp and flapping his fingers. Another guest, the singer Cabra Casay, takes the lead on Ane Nahatka, with Raichel moving to electric piano.

Many fusion adventures such as this one have found success in recent years, as artists increasingly traverse the globe, becoming authentically grounded in each other’s previously alien sounds, styles, cultures and religions. The players here use that joyful experience to forge exciting new traditions.

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