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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 17:33 GMT
African star Ali Farka Toure dies
Ali Farka Toure
Ali Farka Toure usually performed in his cowboy hat
One of Africa's best known musicians, Ali Farka Toure, has died after a long illness in his home country of Mali, the culture ministry has announced.

He was one of the pioneers of "Mali Blues" and his 1994 Talking Timbuktu album produced with US blues guitarist Ry Cooder was widely acclaimed.

Toure, who was in his late 60s, won two Grammy awards for his work.

In 2004, he was elected mayor of his home town of Niafunke on the shores of the River Niger in northern Mali.

Mali's prime minister, culture minister and many of Mali's top artists have been gathering at his home to pay their respects ahead of his funeral on Wednesday.

We would have dinner with him, and listen to him share his experiences, always with a laugh and smile
Catherine Leila, Bamako

Radio stations in the capital, Bamako, have interrupted their normal coverage to play his music.

He died in Bamako but is to be buried in Niafunke, 850km north of the capital on Wednesday, the authorities have announced.

Toure won Grammys for Talking Timbuktu and again this year, for his album in collaboration with another famous Malian musician, Toumani Diabate, In the Heart of the Moon.

His record label, World Circuit, said he had just finished work on a new solo album.

Traditional sound

Although he has worked with several US blues guitarists, the "Bluesman of Africa" always insisted that the music had its roots in the traditional sounds of northern Mali, rather than the southern United States.

Malian journalist Sadio Kante says Toure was better known abroad than in his home country.

He was born in Timbuktu in 1939 but the exact date of his birth is not known.

"For some people, Timbuktu is a place at the end of nowhere," he was once quoted as saying.

"But that's not true, I'm from Timbuktu, and I can tell you that it's right in the centre of the world."

During the 1990s rebellion by the Tuareg people of northern Mali, Toure was seen as something of a peacemaker by singing in all of the region's languages - Songhai, Fulani and the Tuareg's Tamashek.

Many Bamako residents saw him as a northerner, rather than a national figure, says Sadio Kante.

But those in Mali's entertainment business are in mourning.

"A monument has fallen. With the death of Ali Farka Toure, Mali is losing one of it's greatest ambassadors," television producer Mbaye Boubacar Diarra told the AP news agency.

He leaves a widow and 11 children.

Hear music performed by Ali Farka Toure

Obituary: Ali Farka Toure
07 Mar 06 |  Africa
Festival to sell Tuareg culture
09 Jan 06 |  Africa
Being a musician in Mali
07 Mar 06 |  Africa
In pictures: Festival in the Desert 2004
30 Jan 04 |  Photo Gallery
Country profile: Mali
10 Feb 06 |  Country profiles


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