January 28, 2010 — Ali and Toumani — an album of duets from two of Africa’s most distinguished musicians, the late guitarist Ali Farka Touré and kora player Toumani Diabaté—will be released February 23 on World Circuit/Nonesuch Records. In the Heart of the Moon, the duo’s first album together, won a Grammy following its 2005 release.
After the success of In the Heart of the Moon, Touré and Diabaté were invited to perform a series of concerts in Europe, before which Diabaté asked World Circuit’s Nick Gold to make studio time for them to record again. Gold, with Moon engineer Jerry Boys, recorded Ali and Toumani over three afternoons at Livingston Studios, London, in mid-2005. Less than a year later, Touré succumbed to a long illness and passed away.
The record includes subtle contributions from Orlando “Cachaíto” López (bass), as well as Vieux Farka Touré (congas and backing vocals), Souleye Kane (backing vocals), Ali Magasa (backing vocals), and Tim Keiper (percussion). Ali and Toumani became the last album recorded by Cachaíto Lopez as well.
Ali and Toumani culminates a long relationship between Ali Farka Touré and Nick Gold/World Circuit that includes such internationally acclaimed recordings as The Source (1991); Talking Timbuktu (1996), Touré’s Grammy-winning collaboration with Ry Cooder; Niafunke (1999); In the Heart of the Moon (2005); and Savane (2006), among other releases. After Niafunke, Touré had retired from music to devote himself to what he considered his primary vocation: cultivating the land in the Malian town after which that recording was named. He was elected mayor of Niafunke just before the Hotel Mandé Sessions began in January 2004.
Fifty-fourth in a hereditary line of master musicians and griots, Toumani Diabaté is at once revered as the guardian of an ancient musical tradition and as a bold, boundary-crossing experimentalist. He has earned acclaim for inventive solo records as well as collaborations with Björk, Blur’s Damon Albarn, Dee Dee Bridgewater, American bluesman Taj Mahal, and jazz trombonist Roswell Rudd, among others. Diabaté’s The Mande Variations was widely celebrated including critical praise from CBS News Sunday Morning, NPR and the New York Times, among others.