Ali Farka Toure, a giant among African musicians and known for drawing a connection between American blues and indigenous guitar music of Mali, died at his home in Mali Tuesday. He was 66.
Toure had been suffering from bone cancer.
He was unable to travel to the United States in February for the Grammy Awards, where he won a trophy for his album with Toumani Diabate, “In the Heart of the Moon.” He won his other Grammy for his collaboration with Ry Cooder, “Talking Timbuktu.”
In concert, Toure would often remark that people consider Timbuktu to be the end of the Earth, but that it was his home and, if anything, it is the heart of the Earth.
Born into a noble family, he started he began playing the gurkel — a single-string African guitar — in 1950. Six years later, after seeing a performance by Guinean guitarist Ketita Fodeba, he taught himself the guitar. Eventually he heard the blues of John Lee Hooker and saw parallels between Mali and Delta blues and incorporated elements of both in his own style.
Eleven of his albums were released in the U.S., the first arriving in 1988.
Toure was a key figure in two documentaries: “Springing From the Roots” in 2000 and Martin Scorsese’s “Feel Like Going Home” in 2003.
Toure was first a farmer and for a large part of his life he dedicated his time and resources to better the agricultural and social situation in Niafunke, his home village in the semi-desert region in northern Mali. He was appointed mayor of the region in 2004.