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In The Heart of the Moon

4.7 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Audio CD, September 13, 2005
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Product Description

In the Heart of the Moon is a summit meeting between two world music giants, guitarist Ali Farka Toure and master of the kora-the 21-string gourd harp-toumani Diabate. It is the first newly recorded work from either artist in five years and their first album-length collaboration. More an eloquent, in-depth dialogue than a jam session, In The Heart Of the Moon was recorded during three unrehearsed, improvisatory two-hour sessions at the Hotel Mande, on the banks of the Niger river, in Bamako, Mali.

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Ali Farka Toure fans expecting to hear another fiery electric blues effort from the African John Lee Hooker are in for a big surprise. Toure's first album after a six- year hiatus is mostly an acoustic duo with kora master Toumani Diabate that draws upon Malian and Guinean folk style from the 1950s and '60s called Jamana Kura, which grew out of the Mande griot music tradition. Both musicians were children at the time this music was popularized and a yearning sentimentality flavors many of the songs, particularly "Hawa Dolo," one of three Toure tunes rerecorded here in that older style. Other surprises abound as well: there are only two vocal tracks from the deep-voice Toure, and much of the soloing is actually handled by the flittering Diabate. Minus a few overdubs by guests like Ry Cooder, the music here were first takes from a jam session in which the two musicians would improvising over the basic structures. Nonetheless, this loose approach matched with the stunning beauty of the playing makes it a treasure worth holding on to. --Tad Hendrickson
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Product Details

  • Audio CD (September 13, 2005)
  • Number of Discs: 1
  • Label: Nonesuch
  • ASIN: B000AQ69DG
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,860 in Music (See Top 100 in Music)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Friederike Knabe VINE VOICE on September 23, 2005
Format: Audio CD
This is a rare feast! Two of Mali's finest musicians getting together for a couple of jamming sessions! There were no rehearsals, just immediate harmony, understanding of the music and each musician exhibiting appreciation of the other. Both artists brought their rich repertoire with them, one leading the other into a melody they both knew and off they went... creative improvisation combined with virtuosity of their two instruments, guitar and kora. The backup team included no other than famous American guitarist Ry Cooder and his son Joachim.

IN THE HEART OF THE MOON may have taken a few hours to record, but the build up to this first musical encounter of Mali's musical giants took many years. Listening to them play, you wouldn't believe either time span. Having met and heard them both play in informal settings, I can imagine the sessions, the wordless intuitive exchange through eye contact and gestures. The result is, as they say, magic! According to the accompanying notes, they themselves were surprised how well each understood the musical culture of the other. Both could adapt their playing style to the other's requirements. It demanded completely new harmonies on Toumani's kora - it softened the voice of Ali's guitar. Toumani's comment: "This is a record of music that did not exist before!" It melds the different musical traditions of two distinct Malian cultures.

Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté have both been household names of Mali music for a long time. One is famous as Mr. Blues and the other admired as Mr. Kora. Their styles are rooted in their respective ethnic cultures: Ali comes from the northern Songraï and Toumani from a long line of (southern) Mandé griot tradition. They are also from two generations.
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Format: Audio CD
Having experienced Toumani Diabaté's music before, I instantly recognized it on a local "Bonjour Africa" radio show this afternoon. Racing to my local music seller to buy this disc, I found the last copy. You'll have no such trouble here, lucky you. This music is amazing ... the entrancing, rhythmic interplay between Touré's gentle guitar and Diabaté's lilting kora are like two string instrument spirits filling the room with their joy. Despite being recorded with a mobile setup in a hotel room on the banks of a river, the sound is lush and full-bodied; the bass response needs no subwoofer to penetrate to your bones. A few very deft overdubs by Ry Cooder and his son Joachim, and others, don't intrude.

This album is world music the way that non-world music fans probably prefer it: accessible, gentle, amazing, and worth repeated playings, either out loud or quietly in the background. Dare I say it's even good "date music." Play the samples here and judge for yourself.
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Format: Audio CD
My favorite African music album is Diabate's previous album with his relative, Ballake Sissoko, "New Ancient Strings".

However, this album is probably more accessible to the listener who has little experience with non-Western music. This is because the familiar tonality of the guitar gives the new listener something to fasten onto.

The music is quite excellent in its own right, and will be refreshing to the listen who is dismayed at the recent tendency of pop Western music to dispense with melody altogether.
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Format: Audio CD
A gently entrancing dance of two beautifully focused and masterful artists, from its first chords In The Heart of the Moon is irresistible. Modest, never showy, these two deservedly celebrated musicians engage in a hypnotically rhythmic interplay of two distinct but highly compatible instrumental voices. Fans of the hit album Talking Timbuktu, with the late Ali Farke Touré and Ry Cooder, may be hoping for stronger blues riffs, and could be prone at first to mild disappointment with this subtler pairing. One needs to give the deceptively simple repetitive patterns time to build, weave their spell, and enthrall you with a trance effect that is at the heart of traditional African music.

I imagine these two fine string players sitting out under a tree in a village square on a hot afternoon, playing... just playing, and listening intently to one another with a kind of reverent joy. Occasionally I hear an exclamation from one in Malian dialect or a few phrases sung, spontaneous moments that are the more precious for their rarity. A smattering of applause at the end of one number reflects the intimacy and immediacy of audience.

The album was actually recorded in a hotel room in the heart of Mali's capital city, Bamako, overlooking a river dotted with fishing boats. In three two-hour sessions the album was complete, every song recorded in a single take. Remarkably, this is the first time Farke Touré and Diabaté have played together. Yet Farke Touré's guitar and Diabaté's twelve-string traditional kora come together in a union meant to be, as if they'd always known one another. One will hold down a bass line, and with a nod let the other take off on an improvised solo. Then at a mutually intuited moment, the other will take over the sinuous lead line.
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