Alia Farka Touré & Toumani Diabaté, "Ali and Toumani"

84 Billboard Rating

Before dying of cancer in 2006, internationally renowned African guitarist Ali Farka Touré teamed up one last time with kora virtuoso Toumani Diabaté to record "Ali and Toumani," the follow-up album to the duo's 2005 Grammy Award-winning collaboration, "In the Heart of the Moon." Songs on the new set tell stories of heroism, hope and liberation in celebration of Mali's rich culture and heritage. On the track "Ruby," Touré's meditative acoustic guitar playing melds with Diabaté's high-pitched kora outburst to inspire images of Mali's desert landscape, and the pair creates an irresistible salsa groove on the danceable "Sabu Yerkoy." On the latter, which translates as "Thanks to God," Touré rejoices about Malian independence in a soothing tone: "The independence of Mali did us good/As we have got our land back/As we are now hopeful." Indeed, "Ali and Toumani" is spontaneous and deeply spiritual, depicting two outstanding musicians who are governed by nothing but their love for their nation.