Daby Touré, 2007
Between the rain-swept streets of Paris and the swirling sands of the Sahara, there lies a voice that is neither and both of these music-soaked places. Musician Daby Touré, son of the African desert and child of a Parisian musical upbringing, has created new boundaries and categories that go beyond territory, ethnicity, or birthright. He is, simply, Daby.
This musician's life started out in Mauritania, where the Sahara, the world's largest hot desert, divides northern Arabic Africa with southern black Africa. There, in the village of Djeole on the banks of the verdant River Senegal, he grew up surrounded by music and a feast of languages and cultures. Toucouleur, Fulbe, Soninke and Wolof mingled together, helping to give Daby the richest memories of his life.
But his life changed dramatically, and with wide-reaching consequences. When his father -- a musician -- was invited by the Afro-pop group Touré Kunda to join them in Paris, he took his 18-year-old son along with him. He hoped that Daby would take to his studies and earn the qualifications which were going to lead his son, already showing signs of favouring music over his other studies, along a less onerous professional road than he himself had taken.
"But", explains Daby, "it wasn't the right path for me. I was always absent from school because I was actually in the studio practising music with my friends. They called my father and told him and he was really disappointed. He decided to stop helping me then, and all I could say to him was, 'that's not my way, I want to live, I want to live my passion.'"
After a successful album release with his cousin Omar, with whom he formed the band Touré Touré, Daby immersed himself in the Paris jazz scene. And after many years of lone experimenting, playing and recording, he released his debut solo album Diam, a masterpiece of music which successfully nudged, pushed and then broke down the sides of the box he felt he, a musician born in Mauritania, had been put in. This remarkably sensitive but energized and engaging performer had emerged with full force onto the European music scene, as a musician both rooted in his own cultures as well as freely exploring the spaces between, creating something entirely new and breathtakingly fresh.
"I was born in Africa," agrees Daby. "And all the traditional music I picked up when I was young is still in me and that doesn't change. But in my music I am still searching, and mixing, and trying things and that's what I am doing now. I have travelled far from the 'traditional' or 'folkloric' music of my country."
Stereo Spirit is Daby's second release on Real World Records. It is both a message to the world, to those who are sleeping and who need to wake up, as well as an attempt to offer some kind of musical solace in these troubled times.
"My songs are about giving people an emotion, making them feel good, just for a few moments. What I'm trying to do is to give people the best moment possible whilst listening to this album, even if they don't understand what I am talking about because I'm not speaking a language they understand."
Daby's lyrics are a complex interplay between languages, both European and African. As well as French and English, he mixes Wolof with Soninké and Pulaar, the languages of his childhood that represent the different cultures that abound on the African continent.
"When you travel in Africa, you understand that people are really different, that there are so many different cultures and mindsets. And sometimes that can really complicate things because we don't speak the same language. What I am trying to do in this album is to say to people, look, we have to speak the same language, for our future and for the future of our children. We have to forget our differences so we can take steps towards becoming more powerful, more united as Africans for when we want to talk to the rest of the world."
The lyrics of Stereo Spirit travel through these complex human stories and relationships, from 'Kebaluso' in which he speaks of a country's need for unity, to 'Banta' where he sings of the pain of separation from someone you love.
"In the song 'Yakaare,' I am talking about hope and about the children of the world. When you see kids on the streets, you can see the future of these countries, so I am saying to these children, maybe you and future generations can make some changes and do something more positive in the world than we have been able to do."
With his rich voice soaring through the songs, sometimes accompanied only by the punctuated tapping of his fingers on the fret board, it is easy to see that this latest work -- created at Real World Studios over a three-month period in 2006 -- is a one-man work of serious personal expression.
"I made this album alone, and like on Diam I played all the instruments myself. It's much easier to say what you want to say when you know exactly what you want," he says, adding that making music through collaboration for him never really worked.
"It was really important for me to express exactly what I needed to express, to say to people exactly what I needed to say, and I never met anyone I could share that with."
It was also important that the music be created slowly, at its own pace, like a good soup left to simmer in its own flavours.
"It's hard to make an album these days in the way that I want to do it," he says. "Nowadays everything must be fast, because of money and deadlines and it just doesn't help the creative process. But I am lucky to have a company like Real World, which supported me in this work, and I did it. It wasn't easy, but I did it."
After the final mixing in Paris with Bob Coke, who has also worked with Ben Harper, Daby took off for a month in Mauritania and Senegal where he visited his family and the various towns and villages of his childhood.
"When I went back to Mauritania and Senegal after finishing this album, it was magical, very emotional. It was a coming home for me," says Daby, moved by his recent return to Africa.
"But I haven't lived in Mauritania now for 20 years," he says with a smile. "Even if I go back to my village to visit my family, to return to my roots, I am still a modern man. I am a young artist living in Paris, and who has changed. I am African but I am also European. I feel that in my music too."
- WOMAD Charlton Park: Live Review Daby Touré, an ever-reliable Mauritanian singer now based in Paris, played a solo set accompanying himself on electric guitar, strumming with the choppy bounce of Andy Summers in the heydey of The Police. Financial Times (UK)
- Global pop of the very best kind It opens with a wonderfully heady song where his intensely melodious voice takes off into dizzily high realms. His sound has lilting warmth, and his guitar-picking is whip-crackingly precise. The words may be incomprehensible to most European listeners, but that doesn't matter a jot. "My songs are about giving people an emotion, making them feel good, just for a few moments," Touré says. The Scotsman (UK)
- Tunes that really get under your skin These are perfect examples of what Touré does best-short, sweet, breezy mid-tempo pop songs based around his warm mellifluous voice and refreshingly clean acoustic guitar playing. It's all there again on the jaunty Setal and Bibou, which is filled out with some chunky reggae-tinged electric guitar. fRoots (UK)
- Classy roots pop from multi-tasking Touré (Stereo Spirit)...showcases Touré's impossibly beautiful wide-ranging voice to perfection. For all its traditional roots, its mix of balladry and Senegalese grooves and its sprinkling of jazz and funk and reggae, this is indisputably and unashamedly a pop album. Stereo Spirit is packed with catchy hooks and lyrics that seem to demand a singalong, no matter what language they are delivered in.... Touré pours a wealth of feeling into his stories of love and exile, of hopes for a united stronger Africa. Even when he's just singing along to the tapping of fingers on a fretboard, there's a soulful nobility glinting through these three-minute pop gems. Touré deserves commendation for his production too: the sound is crisp and clear, with the odd audacious swathe of electronic swoops and bleeps. A barrier-leaping album from a rising star. Songlines (UK)
- Stereo Spirit The Mauritanian singer Daby Toure has confessed to a love of the Beatles and the Police, and there are echoes of both in his second album, whether in the staggering "Roxanne" rhythm of "Yakaare" or the "Blackbird"-style acoustic picking at the start of "Am". Apart from the yelping intro to "Kebaluso", Stereo Spirit is determinedly easy listening, the relentless positivity of the lyrics mirrored in the relaxed groove of the music. Toure plays everything himself, foregrounding his gentle guitar. Financial Times (UK)
- Infectious brand of global soul-tinged pop Daby Touré's second solo album should come with a warning: 'After One Listening, You Won't Be Able To Get This Album Out of Your Head!'. But that's certainly no bad thing. Stereo Spirit is a glorious fusion of the sounds of both his roots in Mauritania and his years living in Paris, blending the languages of his childhood, Wolof, Soninké, and Pulaar, with English. When Daby can produce an album of such soulful, catchy tracks as those on offer here, it's easy to see why he was nominated for best newcomer in the BBC Awards for World Music in 2006. Not only does he possess a deliciously warm voice, as at home producing rich low sounds as it is creating crisp high-register notes, he's also a talented musician and songwriter. Stereo Spirit is a testament to the power of music to transcend linguistic barriers. Daby's sweetly haunting vocals and striking melodies have an ability to touch the listener, whether or not they share a common language. This isn't an album that takes time to appreciate; its effects are immediate and long lasting. From the first time you hear it, prepare to hum along, tap your toes, and be mesmerised by Daby's infectious brand of global soul-tinged pop. bbc.co.uk (UK)