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.

6 thoughts on “Talking Timbuktu in Buenos Aires

  1. Great post! I’ve been saying it for 20+ years that many of us are becoming citizens of the world instead of a particular country or ethnic identity.

    On another note, your experience triggered Federico Aubele’s music in my mind. He’s an Argentine artist who fuses Reggae, Tango and Electronica in his first album (Gran Hotel Buenos Aires) and a more traditional mixture of several different Latin rhythms in Panamericana, his second album. His style of music mixes well with the scene you described.


    1. Hi Steve,

      Welcome to the Petit World Citizen community! Yes, we are all part of a global village which seems to grow smaller every skinny minute…. Thanks for your comment and music suggestion. I actually have Aubele’s album “Gran Hotel Buenos Aires” and have heard his tango-electronica fusions on my Putumayo Latin Lounge album. A magical blend! Thanks again for stopping by. I hope you enjoy your visits to the community!

  2. Thank you for the wonderful post. I’ll have to check out your suggestion. It sounds like something I would like.

    A group that I enjoy is Strunz and Farah who are from Costa Rica and Iran, respectively. You can read their bio here: Americas is my favorite album of theirs.

    Another band I like is Robbie Robertson and the Red Road Ensemble. Their album Music for Native Americans is wonderful. Robertson has been around for quite some time, but wasn’t really known for “global” music; however, with this collaboration, I feel he truly made some global music that reaches in to your soul.

    Both artists are you tube so feel free to check them out. Enjoy!


    1. Kara, thanks for suggesting Strunz and Farah! Just started listening to them and am already enjoying their fuse of Persian and Latin sound.


  3. Thank you for your comment Kara and welcome to the Petit World Community! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thanks also for your artist recommendations. I just had a chance to listen to them. Absolutely lovely! I especially like Strunz and Farah’s eclectic, world fusion sound. Thanks for sharing and I hope to see you enjoy the community!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s