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Often referred to as “The Hendrix of the Sahara,” VIEUX FARKA TOURÉ was born in Niafunké, Mali in 1981. He is the son of legendary Malian guitar player Ali Farka Touré, who died in 2006. Ali Farka Touré came from a historical tribe of soldiers, and defied his parents in becoming a musician. When Vieux was in his teens, he declared that he also wanted to be a musician. His father disapproved, due to the pressures he had experienced being a musician; rather, he wanted Vieux to become a soldier. But with help from kora maestro Toumani Diabaté, Ali gave his blessing for Vieux to become a musician, shortly before Ali passed.
Vieux was initially a drummer / calabash player at Mali’s Institut National des Arts, but secretly began playing guitar in 2001. Ali Farka Touré was weakened with cancer when Vieux announced that he was going to record an album. Ali recorded a couple of tracks with him, and these recordings, which can be heard on Vieux’s debut CD, were amongst Ali’s final ones. It has been said that the senior Touré played rough mixes of these songs when people visited him in his final days, at peace with – and proud of – his son’s talent as a musician.
In 2005, Eric Herman (still Vieux’s manager today) of Modiba Productions expressed an interest in producing an album for Vieux; this led to Vieux’s self-titled debut album, released by World Village in 2007. Ali Farka Touré’s quest to tackle the problem of malaria is continued, as 10% of the album’s proceeds are donated to Modiba’s “Fight Malaria” campaign in Niafunké. To date, over 3000 mosquito nets have been delivered to children and pregnant women in the Timbuktu region of Mali. On this first album, Vieux paid homage to his father and followed Ali’s musical tradition, giving new versions of West African music that is echoed in American blues. The album features Toumani Diabaté, as well as Vieux’s late father. One of the tracks, “Courage,” is on the soundtrack of the film The First Grader (2010).
On his second record, Fondo (Six Degrees, 2009), Vieux branched out and presented his own sound: while remaining true to the roots of his father’s music, he used elements of rock, Latin music, and other African influences. The album received a great deal of critical acclaim from across the globe, and Vieux was clearly moving out of his father’s shadow.
In June 2010, Vieux performed at the opening concert for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. That month Vieux also released his first live album, LIVE. His live performances are highly energized, and Vieux is known for dazzling crowds with his speed and dexterity on the guitar as well as his palpable charisma and luminous smile, both of which captivate audiences in spite of any language barriers (though Vieux does speak 8 languages).
In 2011 Vieux released his third studio album, The Secret, so named because the listener will hear the secret of the blues with a blend of generations from father to son. It was produced by guitarist Eric Krasno (of the Soulive trio) and features South African-born vocalist Dave Matthews, Derek Trucks on electric slide guitar, and jazz guitarist John Scofield. The title track is the last collaboration between Vieux and his late father. With the heralded release of The Secret, Vieux Farka Touré has clearly established himself as one of the world’s rare musical talents and guitar virtuosos with a distinct style that always pays homage to the past while looking towards the future.