Malian guitarist Sidi Touré dials it back on an all-acoustic, digital-only album | Music Review | Chicago Reader

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Malian guitarist Sidi Touré dials it back on an all-acoustic, digital-only album

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Count Sidi Touré among the billions of people around the world who’ve had to revise their plans in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Malian singer-guitarist’s previous album, Toubalbero, was recorded live in Bamako’s best studio in order to best showcase his band’s vibrant combination of electric guitars and traditional regional instruments. But between the virus and the volatile political situation in Mali, which recently resulted in a military coup, Touré has had to scale things back: his only accompaniment on the new download-only release Afrik Toun Mé (“Africa Must Unite”) is a second acoustic guitar (played by Mamadou Kelly) and a gourd drum called a calabash (played by Boubou Diallo). Its eight songs, which Touré sings in his native Songhai tongue, expound values of education, pan-ethnic unity, and trust in science that are as applicable to listeners in the U.S. as they are to those in West Africa. But you don’t need to understand a word to be moved by the intricate crisscross of fingerpicking and loping grooves that wheel around Touré’s incantatory voice. Malian guitar music is often characterized as “desert blues,” but the sentiment that Afrik Toun Mé projects is optimism.   v

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