For some people, when you say ‘Timbuktu’ it is like the end of the world, but that is not true. I am from Timbuktu, and I can tell you we are right at the heart of the world. –-Ali Farka Touré
One of my favorite music albums is Talking Timbuktu by Ali Farka Touré with Ry Cooder. Every once in while, when I feel like I want to “chill”, I sit in my favorite chair while sipping from a little gourd of mate and listen to this album. Not just my favorite song or two, but the whole album—maybe even twice. For world music aficionados, you know what I mean. On this album, two great guitarists from different continents team up to make music that crosses cultural boundaries from the Delta blues to Malian dialects. Touré sings in 11 languages in this album and plays acoustic and electric guitar, six-string banjo, njarka, and percussion. In dense metaphors, his songs celebrate love, friendship, peace, the land, the spirits and Mali.
The contemporary yet distinctly African and bluesy style of music is both relaxing and energizing. It creates an ambiance that invites one to sit back and dream or share the moment with close friends, good food and nice wine.
The first time I heard this album, I was walking along the famous Caminito, a small street in the La Boca barrio of Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s a colorful and picturesque neighborhood of the city with lots of cafés, souvenir shops, street tango shows, a few museums and a distinct European flavor, particularly Italian.
I discovered a bohemian café that caught my curiosity. I walked in, drawn by the eclectic décor, colorful atmosphere and sweet smell of dulce de leche and fresh baked alfajores. When I entered the café, I immediately noticed the exotic African music that filled the room and I knew I’d have to get the name of the album so I could purchase it as soon as I could. As I sat at a small, nicely weathered, wooden table near the window I marveled at how music connects humanity across borders and throughout the world. Here I was an American, in an Italian barrio, in Argentina, listening to African music, and the first thing that crossed my mind was “I’m home.”
I would love to know what crosses your mind when you listen to the same album. So make yourself your favorite cup of tea or pour a glass of wine, turn off the phone, and listen to the album via the YouTube link provided below. When you’re done I’d love to hear your thoughts. If you listen to other albums that trigger similar emotions, please share. The Petit World Citizen community would love to hear about them!
Link to album: Talking Timbuktu
Talking Timbuktu is the 1994, Grammy award-winning collaboration between Malian guitarist Ali Farka Touré and American guitarist/producer Ry Cooder. The guitar riff from the song “Diaraby” was selected for the Geo-quiz segment of The World PRI-BBC radio program and was retained by popular demand when put to a vote by the listeners.