Ali Farka Toure, a traditional African musician who won two Grammy Awards, died today (March 7) in his native Mali after a long battle with bone cancer. He was in his late 60s. Mali’s Culture Ministry said Toure died at his home in the capital, Bamako.
Toure, one of Africa’s most famous performers, played a traditional Malian stringed instrument called the gurke.
He was best known overseas for his 1995 collaboration with American guitarist Ry Cooder on “Talking Timbuktu,” which netted him his first of two Grammys. He won another Grammy this year in the traditional world music album category for his album “In the Heart of the Moon,” performed with fellow Malian Toumani Diabate.
According to his American label, Nonesuch Records, work had just been completed on a new solo album.
Across his deeply impoverished west African nation, people mourned Toure’s passing and radio stations suspended regular play, sending Toure’s signature lilting sounds out over airwaves instead.
Toure was born in 1939 in the northern Sahara Desert trading post of Timbuktu. Like many Africans of his generation, the exact date of his birth was not recorded.
Toure learned the gurkel at an early age, later also taking up the guitar. He cited many Western musicians for inspiration, including Ray Charles, Otis Redding and John Lee Hooker.
Toure spent much of his older age in his childhood town of Niafunke, which has become a pilgrimage spot for many music-loving Africans and tourists seeking one of the original progenitors of a genre known as Mali Blues.
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