Ali Farka Touré was one of the true giants of West African music in the late 20th century. He embodied a blazing desert-blues guitar style and riveting vocals that won him favorable comparisons to any six-string legend you could name. Most frequently, he was compared to John Lee Hooker. And unlike so many famous musicians, Touré never abandoned his home town of Niafunké, Mali for a posh apartment in Paris or London. In fact, he ran for and won the role of mayor of Niafunké in 2004.
The next year, he embarked on a collaboration with renowned kora player Toumani Diabaté, and the two released an album called In The Heart of the Moon, which won them a Grammy in the World Music category. After a quick, successful tour of Europe, the two went back into the studio to record a follow-up. Alas, these sessions also overlapped with Touré's physical decline. In early 2006, he died after a long battle with bone cancer. But you can't hear any indication of that illness from the recordings that make up their final collaboration, Ali & Toumani, an album released earlier this year.
This particular track, which is indicative of what all of the pair's work sounds like, is truly beautiful. The fluid runs of guitar and kora blend together in unexpected-yet-intuitive ways. You'd swear these two were old bandmates, but no, the collaboration was still fresh. The video also makes clear there was another giant in the room for this cut: Cuban bass legend Orlando "Cachaíto" López, whom you may know via his role in the Buena Vista Social Club.
It was a precious moment in time, and while both López and Touré have since left us, this music remains as vital as any I can think of.
And for the randomizer bug: