arts & cultureCairns QueenslandEFFINCUEfar north QueenslandPODCASTS


This week, Tony takes us to the west African nation of Mali. It’s been in the news of late, and not for the best of reasons. But for decades now, the music of Mali has been winning fans among music lovers all over the world.

That probably began 20 years ago, with Salif Keita, and many other Mali musicians have followed in his footsteps. You’ll hear music that draws on very old traditional styles, and a strong hint of where the blues came from. Many a Malian guitar player is described as sounding a lot like John Lee Hooker, but truth is the sound was born in West Africa and was carried to the U.S when the slave trade began.

Vieux Farke Toure

This week we hear music from three Mali musicians about to tour Australia, beginning with Vieux Farka Toure. He’s the son of the late internationally acclaimed musician Ali Farka Toure, who discouraged his son’s musical ambitions and tried to get him to join the army. Thankfully Vieux persisted with music – his guitar skills are astonishing and his singing a joy to hear.

Bassekou Kouyate
Bassekou Kouyate

Next we hear Bassekou Kouyate, a master of the ngoni, a lute like instrument made of wood or calabash, with dried animal skin stretched over it. It lends itself to some very fast melodies, and has a magical sound. Bassekou Kouyate has been called the Jimi Hendrix of the ngoni.


Salif KeitaFinally, the best known Mali musician – Salif Keita. He comes from royal ancestry, is blessed with what has become known as “the golden voice of Africa”, and he has a keen ear for authentic African music and how Western audiences might appreciate it. Salif moved to Paris in the early 80s, and from there took his music to the world. He was one of the first major successes of the so-called “world music” boom of the 1980s.



  • Vieux Farka Toure –   Album: Fondo     Song: Diaraby Magni
  • Bassekou Kouyate – Album: Jami Ko    Song: Jami Ko
  • Salif Keita             –  Album: Tale          Song: A Demain

Tony Hillier is one of Australia’s leading music journalists and a musician of long standing here in far north Queensland. Tony’s informed and insightful coverage of music features in The Weekend Australian and Rhythms magazine .


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