The recent spate of media attention to political and health crises in Africa is certainly good, if sometimes seemingly a bit artificial, with celebrities such as Gwenyth Paltrow and Sarah Jessica Parker featured in ads declaring, "I Am African."
Vieux Farka Toure is African, and is coming to Ithaca on a concert tour to promote a major health effort that is intensely personal to him: the fight against malaria, the leading cause of infant mortality in Africa.
Vieux Farka Toure is a guitarist from Mali, the African nation recognized as the ancestral home of blues music. He is the son of Ali Farka Toure, the legendary guitarist who, more than anyone, made clear the connections of Malian music and its American cousin, with his historically authoritative and powerful playing.
Ali Farka Toure died in 2006. Vieux Farka Toure is now continuing his father's legacy with his first solo release and tour. Part of Toure's work is to bring attention and financial support to the fight against malaria, which plagues his homeland, and his hometown of Niafunke.
Niafunke is a familiar name to fans of Ali Farka Toure, who named an album after his town. (He also famously, if facetiously, promoted his town after winning his first Grammy award, and declining to travel to the U.S. to receive it. He said, "I don't know what a Grammy means, but if someone has something for me, they can come and give it to me here in Niafunke, where I was singing when nobody knew me.") Vieux Farka Toure is working with UNICEF to provide every pregnant woman in Niafunke's region with a treated mosquito net, considered the most effective preventive measure against malaria.
A schedule quirk in Toure's tour left him with an open date between appearances in Toronto and New York, which he is filling with an appearance at the Haunt in Ithaca on Sunday, 18 February.
Music fans will have a rare exposure to a powerful tradition of which Toure is now perhaps the most important proponent. His playing is respectful of its roots, both historical and immediate, but authoritative and moving on its own.
Showtime is 7 pm. Tickets are only $10 in advance, or $12 on the day of the show. Advance tickets are available at Small World Music, 614 W. State St., and at the Ithaca Guitar Works in the Dewitt Mall.
for Ithaca Blog