• Vieux Farka Toure at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena August 22, 2015 (Photo - Staff).

      Vieux Farka Toure at Levitt Pavilion Pasadena August 22, 2015 (Photo – Staff).

      Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Vieux Farka Toure, Eddie Van Halen, wait… Vieux Farka Toure? Malian born in 1981, Boureima “Vieux” Farka Toure is a true inspiration to musicians around the world. Most notably recognized for an opening act during the 2010 World Cup South Africa, Vieux Farka crushed the stage in front of over a billion spectators.

      By George Daher

      Vieux Toure is the pinnacle of Malian music and his talent is a true gift, a treasure that shines brighter than any blood diamond or red ruby to be found in the caves of the African continent. His talent was exemplified at the Levitt Pavilion Amphitheatre on Saturday, August 22, 2015, and I am very thankful to have witnessed the remarkable live performance that had hundreds of people dancing and grooving right in front of the stage. Transitioning from harmonic crescendos of soft intricate finger picking to up-beat afro-funk, the Malian musician gave Pasadena a well-rounded, awe striking performance.

      Combining an emotional blues tune with an African tribal groove and a distortion that would bring a smile to guitar aficionados all over the world, Vieux Farka Toure is the most soulful performer I have ever witnessed. The torturous conditions of northern Mali have been recently perpetuated by the influx of radical Islam moving in from the north. In just 3 years, over 400,000 people have been part of a mass exodus to the southern part of the country, where music is legal. You read that correctly, music is outlawed in northern Mali, and strictly enforced.

      Imagine yourself playing a raggedy acoustic guitar, missing a string and cracked at the base, strumming gently in a hot, dry room. Each tune liberating a pressure bestowed upon you by the radical conditions of Malian life, when in an instant, the door is kicked down, and a dozen men come storming into your room with Kalashnikov assault rifles and fearless anger. A man runs straight towards you, rips the guitar out of your hand, and pushes you to the ground. The man begins to smash guitar in front of you, telling you that the only chance you have at life is to relentlessly beg for forgiveness because music, of any sort is outlawed. This is the true account of Alwakilo Toure, a reggae musician out of Gao, Mali.

      Protesting Farka Toure's participation in the Red Sea Summer Jazz Festival, Sat. August 22, 2015 (Photo - Staff).

      Protesting Farka Toure’s participation in the Red Sea Summer Jazz Festival, Sat. August 22, 2015 (Photo – Staff).

      We take for granted the vibrations and sensations we are able to experience every day in more developed and progressive parts of the world, unaware of how oppressive this world still can be to others. In turn of this musical genocide, the music in Mali has become more influential, intricate and soulful. Rock star Robert Plant visited southern Mali in 2001 to speak, and preform, on behalf of the atrocities being committed. Mali has gained worldwide recognition and France has been steadily providing the Malians with protection from the Islamist Law that is punishable by death.

      At the Levitt show, two people held a banner at the beginning of Farka Toure’s first song to protest his participation in the Red Sea Summer Jazz Festival to be held in Eliat, Israel. At the end of the show, the same group was handing out flyers urging Farka “not to dishonor Malian music and cultural heritage by entertaining Israeli apartheid”.

      We are grateful for a venue like the Levitt Pavilion Pasadena for bringing such great acts and spreading the healing sounds of music. It was an awesome show overall, despite being marred by overzealous security guards who were pushing attendees away even though the artist encouraged everyone to approach the stage and dance.

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