NPR

Sidi Toure On 'World Cafe: Next'

Born to the noble Toure family in Gao, Mali, Sidi Toure experienced a strong pull toward music at a young age. But the weight to conform to the expectations of family and society meant that he was to abide by a tradition of being sung to, not the other way around. Yet, his determination and love for song pulled him against the strong current of society. As a child, he would construct his own guitars, on which he would craft together the early workings of songs. He later joined his school's band as the lead singer and became the youngest member of Gao's regional orchestra (the Songhai Stars). But his decision to join these groups led to his family's great disapproval; his older brother often protested Toure's behavior by breaking his hand-crafted guitars.

But Toure continued despite the disapproval and became an award winning performer, receiving two awards for best singer in 1984 and 1986. His group began to travel across north Mali and became widely hailed for his ability to capture a sense of tradition while also challenging it. Both his lyrics and guitar style are full of reflection, hope and promise; even in some of his bearest arrangements he manages to ignite social dialogue. And these qualities are no more true than on his latest album, Sahel Folk. Recorded live in his sister's home, the live album features his friends and collaborators, who for the first time, have been documented. Together, they not only create songs for the sake of their beauty, but for their ability to spur social change. As Toure famously states, "If I sing about things and there is no change, then it will have been a waste."

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