Mike Birbiglia is a funny comedian. In one of his routines, he says that rappers like to invoke their names. In particular, he says he like Busta Rhymes, who'll invoke his pseudonym ("The cat in the hat, and that is that. Busta Rhymes!"). He wants to do that in jokes: "If Folger's is the best part of waking up, I don't think I want to wake up! Mike Birbiglia!".
This narcissism has made the swim to Africa. Vieux Farka Toure, son of the late Ali Farka Toure, the Mali bluesman, has combined the new and the old to produce, well, songs that sound just like his dad, even as his dad, allegedly, wanted him to be a soldier, rather than follow in his immense footsteps and be a musician.
In one of the songs, Vieux says "Ali Farka Toure, Ali Farka Toure" intoning his father's name as if it were Busta Rhymes.
Lest you think that Vieux, or his father, sang in English. They do not. Mali has dozens of spoken languages, and Ali spoke at least four. Bambara is most widely spoken. Occasionally, especially on his last album, Ali would sing in French, an official language of Mali.
As I've said before, I prefer listening to these songs without really understanding the words, the rhythm of African languages serving as its own instrument. I'm listening to a duet with Toumani Diabate, who Vieux's father also collaborated with. He plays the kora, a harplike instrument, of which Diabate is an acknowledged master. In the Heart of the Moon was a collaborative effort between Ali and Toumani, arranged by Ry Cooder, who "discovered" Ali for the west with Ali's album, Niafunke, which isn't a Malian form of music made famous by George Clinton, but is, instead, a city/town where Ali Farka Toure resided.
Usually, I have to be in the right mood to listen to Toure, usually relaxed and quiet, and that's usually when I appreciate it most.
Maybe Vieux didn't steal the idea from rappers. Maybe it's his form of homage to his father. I don't know. But I think of that joke from Mike Birbiglia when I hear Vieux say his father's name.
Ali Farka Toure. Ali Farka Toure!
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