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‘Hendrix of the Sahara’ Touré to play at LEAF, also in LEAF Schools & Street benefit


By Pete Zamplas-The Lake Eden Arts Festival (LEAF) Schools & Streets youth program will present the unique Malian-mixed guitar style of a man tabbed the African Jimi Hendrix, in the Orange Peel club in Asheville on Monday, Oct. 21.

The discounted show by Vieux Farka Touré is suitable for families and field trips, and follows his also performing in the 37th LEAF festival Oct. 17-20 at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain.

Area-based folk rockers Acoustic Syndicate’s release show for their first album in nearly a decade is a LEAF highlight. Noted funky R&B Creole Dr. John plays with his newest band, The Night Trippers. Another treat is hearing steel pans played by LEAF International students from Bequia, largest Caribbean island of the Grenadines north of Grenada.

LEAF as usual has a poetry slam contest, Kids Village, drum circle, various healing arts workshops and booths; and contra, swing and salsa dancing. New are huge puppets, Jam Tavern with festival performers and local brews, and a general store stocked by French Broad Food Co-op.

The local gigs are Touré’s exclusive ones in the Southeast. His show in the Orange Peel starts at 11 a.m., a half-hour after doors open. He will answer questions, after performing. Show tickets are merely $5 per adult or $3 per youth, geared for a strong turnout with all proceeds supporting LEAF Schools & Streets (LSS).

LSS brings in professional artists for youth “hands-on workshops, residencies, interactive performances and mentoring,” said LEAF Arts Education Administration Specialist Emma Harver. She said this helps “students find and develop their artistic voice … Youth are empowered, learn about other cultures, gain access to cultural activities, feel more valued by their community, develop relationships with adult role models and build self-esteem.”

Touré is a son of Malian legend Ali Farka Touré, who died in 2006. Father and son each have blended West African Mali traditions with blues and soul guitar. Ali’s sound is known as “DNA of the blues,” Harver noted. Vieux also mixes in jazz, rock and reggae. Other guitarists note he varies from American blues by a couple of notes on a pentatonic musical scale.

The “Hendrix of the Sahara” is flamboyant in concert, strumming with only thumb and index finger in a hypnotic frenzy.

Harver explained African acoustic guitar styles vary by country, with some applying techniques of playing other instruments. Plucking with merely the thumb and one finger imitates two-thumbed plucking on the kora and mbira instruments.

Touré vocal style includes Arabic mourning-like “keening.”

LEAF Executive Director Jennifer Pickering said “Vieux represents the core of LEAF’s mission to connect people to other countries and genres that they may not be familiar with, or able to travel to. Right now in the midst of much upheaval and instability, most people would not travel to Mali. LEAF helps build that bridge, to experience the beauty of music traditions.”

His album, Mon Pays, released in May, “pays homage to his country and Malian culture,” Harver said. “Mali has been torn by territorial conflict between Tuareg and Islamic populations, since January 2012. Vieux Farka Touré has devoted his musical talents to reminding the world about the beauty and culture of his homeland. He is spreading awareness of the current Malian conflict on his current U.S. tour.

For tickets, check the for the Toure show. LEAF festival tickets are sold only in advance; call 686-8742 (68-MUSIC) or simply check

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