Words: Olivia Boschung (she/her)
Tramways in Glasgow witnessed a musical extravaganza on February 3rd, 2023, when the Malian maestro, Vieux Farka Toure, graced the stage for the Celtic Connections festival. The concert was eagerly anticipated by fans of traditional West African music and those who have been captivated by Vieux’s unique blend of Malian music and contemporary elements.
Viuex’s music is deeply rooted in the traditions of West Africa, but he is not afraid to push the boundaries and explore new sounds and styles. His music is a reflection of his own experiences, his travels, and his collaborations with musicians from around the world. Vieux’s ability to seamlessly blend different musical elements is a testament to his versatility as a musician and his deep understanding of the power of music to transcend boundaries.
Throughout the night, it was evident that Vieux’s music had the power to transport the audience to the heart of West Africa. The rhythms and melodies were intricate and complex, and Farka Toure’s guitar playing was virtuosic, weaving seamlessly between the different musical elements.
The concert began with Vieux and 2 others: a bassist and drummer/guitarist stepping onto the stage, greeting the packed auditorium with an array of West African
rhythms. The opening number “Les Racines” from his latest album with the same name, set the tone for the evening – a blend of traditional Malian music with contemporary elements. The audience was immediately captivated, with Vieux’s guitar work taking centre stage.
The band moved into “Allah Wawi”, a tribute to Vieux’s father, the legendary Ali Farka Toure, showcasing Vieux’s intricate guitar work, which flowed effortlessly over the complex rhythms. The audience was entranced, and the energy in the room was palpable. Vieux’s connection to his father’s music was evident, and the audience was taken on a journey through the history of Malian music.
“Mariam”, a hauntingly beautiful love song to Mali followed, highlighting Vieux’s vocal
range, was soulful and deeply emotional. The audience was drawn into a state of reverie, the notes drifting across the room in a delicate haze. Vieux’s guitar playing was restrained and understated, creating a perfect backdrop for his powerful vocals.
Then, “Fafa,” an upbeat, energetic track, had the audience on their feet, dancing and clapping along. Vieux’s guitar work was electrifying, his solos intricate and dynamic, as he led the band through a rollicking number. The energy in the room was electric, with Vieux’s music creating a sense of palpable euphoria.
As the evening progressed, Vieux’s music delved into deeper, more introspective territory, with “Homafu Wawa”, a tribute to his late mother, and “Tabara”, a song with a hypnotic quality that transported the audience on a journey to a distant land with complex and layered rhythms.
The concert was a celebration of the rich cultural heritage of West Africa, but it was also a testament to the power of music bringing people together. The audience was a diverse mix of people from all walks of life, brought together by their love of music and their appreciation for Vieux’s unique style. The event was a reminder that music is a universal language that has the power to connect people from all corners of the world. Vieux’s music is not just about entertainment, it is also about education and enlightenment. His songs often touch on social and political issues, shining a light on the struggles and challenges faced by people in West Africa and around the world. He reminds us that music can be a tool to promote social justice and human rights.
His concert with Celtic Connections was a triumph of musical expression and cultural diversity. Vieux Farka Toure is a true master of his craft, and his concert in Glasgow will be remembered as a powerful and inspiring tribute to the transformative power of music.