Review: Vieux’s Desert Blues on a Distant Shore


Vieux Farka Touré’s Big Island debut concert probably won’t be his last. The West African guitarist sold-out the Kahilu, and when his 90-minute set came to a close, the energetic crowd cheered and pounded thunderously on the stage demanding an encore. Friday’s show was nothing short of astounding.

Touré’s musical DNA is deep-rooted in Malian blues. He’s the second-eldest son of Ali Farka Touré (1939-2006), a two-time Grammy winning guitarist and songwriter who merged West African traditions with the blues and carried his music to a worldwide audience. When he died in 2006, Vieux launched a solo career, and continues the legacy his father began.

Vieux Farka Touré – Kahilu Theatre – April 13, 2018

Touré has been referred to as the “Hendrix of the Sahara,” an unnecessary marketing moniker since he stands comfortably on his own as a talented and respected guitarist. Sure, there are audible comparisons to Hendrix – the other-worldly guitar solos, hypnotic grooves, and a power-rock trio sound reminiscent of the Band of Gypsys, but it’s easy to hear other influences too. There’s also a Curtis Mayfield light-touch guitar style, along with an occasional Taj Mahal twang baked into the cake.

Touré signature sound comes from his Godin Summit CT guitar run through a Roland Jazz Chorus 120 amp, which he calls “the sound of the desert.” Rounding out his rig are his father’s old pedals: a Boss OC-2 Octave, DD-2 Digital Delay, SD-1 Super Overdrive, and a TU-2 tuner. When it all kicked in, Touré sounded like he was playing electric church music with the Kahilu crowd singing and dancing like a choir, especially on songs like “Homafu Wawa.”

One of the most moving Malian blues numbers played was “Ai Du,” a tune that was written by his father, and one his most beloved songs. The English translation goes something like: “Trust and faith in your fellow man has no equal/If you have experienced trust you will know its strength/You must know yourself before you know others.”

Mamadou Kone

Touré was accompanied by drummer Mamadou Kone, who’s been playing with the guitarist in Mali for many years, but recently joined his international band. Kone plays both drum kit and the calabash, that dome-shaped instrument used for the first few acoustic songs. On bass was Marshall Henry, who doubles as the group’s tour manager, and is a member of Symphoria (formerly known as the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra.

Carter “CC” Collins

As a special treat, Touré invited conga player Carter “CC” Collins to sit in on a few songs with the band. Collins has performed with Richie Havens, Laura Nyro, and Tower of Power to name but a few. He’s currently a resident of Kapaau.

Touré invited the audience to dance and the Kahilu’s aisles quickly filled with a diversity of ages and dance styles, jamming nonstop and begging for more.

After the show, the band signed CDs and vinyl from Touré’s catalog. There were also colorful African shirts and leather bags being sold, the profits donated to Touré’s Mali charity called AMAHREC Sahel. The charity helps buy school supplies for children and orphans in villages throughout Mali.

When his tour of Hawaii concludes, Touré returns to the States for a few shows, and then he’s off to Europe.

Set List
Bonheur | Ni Negaba | Filipha | Fafa | Ali | Ai Du |Biba | Samba Si Kairi | Ba Kaitere | Nha Maïmouna Poussaniamba

Homafu Wawa

To learn more about Vieux Farka Touré, please visit:

error: This content is copyright protected.
%d bloggers like this: