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Friends, relatives bury Ali Farka Toure

African music legend was buried in his hometown near the Sahara Desert
/ Source: The Associated Press

Grieving friends and relatives buried African musical legend Ali Farka Toure Thursday in the two-time Grammy winner’s hometown on the edge of the Sahara Desert, participants said.

Toure’s body was borne on a government-supplied truck to his hometown of Niafunke after heavy sandstorms across West Africa grounded the plane meant to bring him to the Timbuktu region just south of the Sahara.

Toure melded traditional Malian stringed instruments and vocals with the American blues guitar tradition he considered firmly rooted in West Africa, from where most North American slaves were shipped.

Best known overseas for his 1994 collaboration with American guitarist Ry Cooder on “Talking Timbuktu,” which netted him his first Grammy, Toure was a local giant who helped bankroll a production company that has nurtured Mali’s young talent.

Toure, in his late 60s, won his second Grammy this year in the traditional world music album category for “In the Heart of the Moon,” performed with fellow Malian Toumani Diabate.

Toure died early Tuesday at his home in the capital, Bamako, of bone cancer.

He was born in 1939 in the northern Sahara Desert trading post of Timbuktu. Like many Africans of his generation, the exact date of his birth was not recorded.

He learned the traditional single-stringed gurkel at an early age, later taking up the guitar. He cited many Western musicians as inspiration, including Ray Charles, Otis Redding and John Lee Hooker.

Toure spent many of his later years in Niafunke, near Timbuktu, which has become a pilgrimage site for many music-loving Africans and tourists seeking one of the originators of a genre that has become known as Mali Blues.