Mali is one of the countries occupying large parts of the Sahara Desert, which we Americans don’t think much about. Most of its 15 million people live in the south of the country near the Niger and Senegal rivers. In 2005, two Mali musicians, Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabaté, produced an album based upon the music from both the north and south of Mali as well as from Guinea to the west, In the Heart of the Moon. It’s mostly just the two of them playing: Touré on guitar and Diabaté on the kora — a kind of harp with 21 strings.
The album must have been a big hit, because it won the Grammy award for “Best Traditional World Album.” I tend not to like the term “world music,” because it makes me think of people who have no taste in music — they just listen to whatever album is featured on PRI’s The World. The music itself is usually great. So here are the two of them performing the first cut off the album, “Debe,” in Brussels. Only a few months after this concert, Touré died of bone cancer, so he must have already been sick. It adds a bit of poignancy to the event.