Sidi Touré made his first guitar as a child, constructing it from his wooden writing slate in the ancient town of Gao, Mali. Once the heart of the Songhai empire and burial place of its Askia kings, the town rests between the Niger and the encroaching ocean of sand known as the Sahara Desert. The Songhai empire was the last of the great empires of the Sahel, reaching its zenith under Soni Alibert (Sunni Ali) in the mid 400’s.
Sidi Touré was born here in 1959, but to be born a Touré, a noble family who trace their lineage directly from the Askia kings, carries a significance and onus of a past that reaches directly into the present. Like another Malian noble turned singer, Salif Keita, Sidi Touré faced a conflict between the inexorable pull of music and the expectations of family and society. Touré’s family have been sung about, and sung to, by traditional griots for centuries, but until a small boy challenged the rules, the Touré’s did not sing!
Sidi has created a sound which both captures and challenges his roots. While the music and rhythms remain authentically Songhai, moving from the translucent swaying Takamba to the trance inducing Holley , his lyrics revleal an observant and critical mind. His songs draw attention to issues not usually addressed by singers from such ancient traditions. Sidi’s music is modern, bending tradition not unlike Tinariwen (they share common rhythms like Takamba: the songhai and the tamasheq are neighbors) and his guitar playing and scales cross into western folk and blues not unlike Ali Farke Touré (who is also songhai). Sidi is a captivating performer whose skills and songs shine in any context.