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WORLD MUSIC REVIEW

Touré locks into a rhythm

August 11, 2007|Don Heckman | Special to The Times

The Sunset Concerts at the Skirball Center continued to move into dance party mode Thursday night with the performance by Mali's Vieux Farka Touré. Extending the growing emphasis on body-moving, rhythmic-oriented modes established in previous weeks by Hugh Masekela, TribalJazz and Zohar, Touré played a set unabashedly oriented toward the participants in the expanding dance pit at the front of the stage.

Nothing wrong with dancing, of course. And Touré -- a rapidly emerging world-music star -- was quick to pick up on the audience's inclinations. Although he began his program a bit slowly, he made it clear, as soon as he kicked into "Sangare" (from his latest CD, "Vieux Farka Touré"), that the catchword for the balance of the evening would be "rhythm," and plenty of it.

Like his legendary father, the late Ali Farka Touré, Vieux is a charismatic performer. Unlike his father, he has brought far more Western elements into the instrumental aspects of his music. Playing guitar with quick-fingered fluency, employing a penetrating sound employing a doubled octave and a screeching, high-frequency emphasis, he roved the stage like a rock star, continually drawing the crowd into the orbit of his music.

What was lost was the musical diversity of his CD -- a problem enhanced by his decision to play only a few tunes from the recording. The hypnotic musical repetition of what Touré did sing and play, with its occasional blues and reggae references and its constant emphasis on the beat, was more than adequate for the busy dancers. But it was only in the too-brief moments in which the rhythm incorporated the engaging accents of overlapping traditional African meters that one had a sense of the CD's far richer musical content. Touré has the talent and dynamism needed to follow in -- and emerge from -- the footsteps of his remarkable father. Hopefully he will not, in the quest to connect with Western audiences, diminish the vital connection with Malian tradition that makes his music unique.

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