On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenge of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post every day (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be… legendary!
Ali Farka Toure – Amandrai (1987)
We’re leaving Spain behind today, dear reader, and making our way south to Africa. We’re heading to the landlocked country of Mali and to the Timbuktu region. Ali Farka Toure became a renowned African bluesman in his lifetime, comparable to John Lee Hooker in the US. When we join him in 1987 he is recording his self-titled debut album and from there 1001 Songs have gone with the track – Amandrai.
I wasn’t able to find a translation for Amandrai and Ali Farka Toure would sing in a variety of languages including Songhay and Tamasheq, so with my linguistic incapability I had no chance. From what I could garner the song concerns Toure trying to woo a woman through the sheer power of his music. Being a blues specialist you would expect there to be some negative twist in there somewhere. The piece is heavily driven by the acoustic guitar which packs as much emotional depth as Toure’s own vocals. There is a feeling of ponderance to the melody here with a smidgen of uncertainty thrown in.
Ali Farka Toure became very popular throughout Africa and his music would be recognised worldwide too as he collaborated with the likes of Ry Cooder in 1994 with his album, Talking Timbuktu. He even found time to become the mayor of Niafunke in 2004 and used his own money to help improve the community. Toure’s journey ended in 2006 at the age of 66 from bone cancer.
Favourite songs so far: