2004 from Real World

Daby Touré’s story goes back two generations and has a fairy tale beginning.

Once upon a time, in a village near Kayes (in what is now modern Mali), there lived four brothers, who plied their family’s traditional trade as shoemakers and leatherworkers, fashioning the skins of crocodiles from a nearby river into shoes, bags and wallets. But perhaps due to drought or excessive hunting, the crocodile population began to dwindle dramatically, until the family could no longer sustain a living from their craft. The brothers decided to disperse to the four winds - and they never saw each other again.

One of them, Daby Touré, went to live near Zinguinchor in Casamance, the southernmost province of Senegal, where he married four wives and produced a large brood of children. For reasons that no one has ever been able to explain, this new Touré generation was touched by a deep love and gift for music. A younger member of the clan, Hamidou Touré, was brought up by an uncle up north in Mauritania. After graduating as a doctor in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott, he was sent to a sand-blown desert town called Boutilimit, where he married a beautiful woman who was half Moorish or Hassaniya and half Toucouleur. They gave birth to a son who they called Daby, in honor of his grandfather, the family patriarch.

Mauritania is situated on the fault line between Moorish North Africa and sub-Saharan black Africa. As you travel south from its northern border with Morocco, the unrelenting lifelessness of the deep desert changes into dry, bushy, coastal scrubland of the southern grasslands and forests. A big river, the Senegal, marks the southern boundary of this modern nation state. Although the lighter-skinned Moors have always held political and social power in the country, more than half the population belong to black ethnic groups; Toucouleur, Fulbe, Soninké and Wolof. The country always lived comfortably with this ethnic and cultural diversity until the late 1980s, when bitter inter-ethnic conflict disturbed this harmony.

Daby grew up in Boutilimit, Nouakchott, and Casmance before going to live with an uncle in the village of Djéole, near Kaédi, on the banks of the Senegal. His parents had divorced, and Daby’s father couldn’t be seen to be raising young children on his own. In Djéole, Daby soaked up the language, culture and music of his Soninké people, as well as those of the neighbouring Toucouleur and Wolof. He learned all about farming and cattle rearing. It was a secure village childhood. "With hindsight, I think the times I spent in the village were the most important in my life, because that’s where I was forged," Daby remembers. In the warmth of the night, he would join friends to bang out rhythms on old tins, canisters and cardboard boxes and entertain the village. When diversion was required at henna and wedding feasts, Daby and his mates would often be sent for.

Later, Daby moved back to the capital Nouakchott to live with his father. After a tiring day at the hospital, Hamidou would often relax by playing music with his friends. Daby wasn’t allowed to touch the guitars, because his father did not want him to develop any crazy ideas about becoming a musician. But he stole time on the instruments anyway and taught himself the basics. He also began discovering the exotic joys of western pop music, thanks to radio, pirated cassettes and the occasional TV broadcast. The Police, Dire Straights, Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson were powerful formative influences. Although a deep fascination and hunger for music was evident in the teenager, Daby’s father continued to insist that music was not a career option for any well-brought-up young man. "In Mauritania, the profession of musician doesn’t really exist," explains Daby. "A profession is something you train for and get a diploma. My father was more fearful for me than anything else, because he knew what a musician’s life consisted of and for him it wasn’t a future."

In 1989, political unrest and ethnic conflict was making life in Mauritania very difficult, so when Hamidou was invited by his younger brothers Sixu and Ismael to join their musical group Touré Kunda, he at first he hesitated, but the offer seemed too good to refuse. He sold his house to pay for his son to come along with him. The rich musical life of Paris was a magical revelation to the 18-year-old Daby, and although his father continued to brow-beat him about his studies, music slowly became his whole life. He began to play little gigs in bars and college parties with rock and cover bands. After finally leaving his course at Business School, despite his father’s objections, he went to live in an African hostel in Paris and teamed up with his cousin Omar to form Touré Touré. They began to explore the vivid common frontiers of jazz and African music.

A meeting with Jean-Pierre Como, the keyboard player with established avant-jazz-fusionists Sixún, kick-started a chain-reaction which lead to a record deal with French independent label Pygmalion Records and the release of Touré Touré’s album LADDÉ. The Sixún connection opened doors to the bubbling Parisian jazz scene, with its open-mindedness and vitality, and Daby fell in love with bands like Weather Report, Joe Zawinul and Pat Metheny. It was their originality and artistry that fascinated him above all else. Despite the fact that LADDÉ was very well received in France and Touré Touré played hundreds of concerts nationwide - as well as further a-field in Canada and Brazil - Daby felt dissatisfied with the band’s progress. It seemed that the industry, the media and their audiences were only interested in the roots, African and dance band aspects of the group.

"The music that I play is based on exploration, on original compositions. It’s like a painter who gets up to paint a painting. I get up in the morning, I pick up my guitar and I start working. I don’t know where I’m going but I go."

Daby locked himself away in his own home-studio and began to write and arrange songs. He controlled every aspect of the creative process, from composition to arrangements, to performance and mixing. That was important; Daby was in pursuit of a very individual musical vision, and he needed the time, space and solitude to make it a reality. After several years’ hard work, Daby teamed up with electronic musician and digital wizard Cyrille Dufay to develop the sound further. The result of all this experimentation, exploration and hard graft is DIAM.

The songs on the album tell of Daby’s life, of the people around him and of the world in general. He sings of relationships,freedom, his family, and, above all, of being positive when times are hard. It is perfectly fitting then that the title, DIAM, means "peace" - something that Daby has sought throughout his life. It is because Daby is sure of where he comes from that he can move forward without fear.

Bastille Day hums to international beat
July 18, 2005

... The torch then passed to the younger generation, in the form of emerging Mauritanian star Daby Toure, whose father played in the 1980s Senegal-based outfit Toure Kunda. Toure, who lives in Paris, performed in a more accessible, international style, with blunter rhythms and a powerful bass, and more than a few hints of reggae. During an impressive set he ignited the crowd, returning drenched in sweat for a triumphant encore.... more >>

Album Review: DIAM
Peter Gabriel's latest protégé, singer / songwriter Daby Touré, makes his Real World debut with this affable album. Touré's music evokes modern and traditional modes of life: It's as influenced by the sounds coming out of today's Senegal, Mali, Paris and New York as it is flavored by the traditional music of his native Mauritania (a nation largely unknown in the West that has a cultural blend spanning from Arab / Moor to several black ethnic groups). Gentle-voiced and sweet-spirited, Touré, teaming up with electronic musician / producer Cyrille Dufay, creates a thoroughly charming record. Standout tracks include the lilting "Iris," the R&B-tinged "Baby" and the hypnotically rhythmic "Dendecuba." Roots-oriented world music fans will probably pass "Diam" by, but that would be a mistake, as Touré is a rising star. -- AT

Album Review: DIAM
Diam by Daby Touré is a warm and tuneful collection of songs. I knew little about him until I heard his distant, attractive voice at Womad weekend. Touré is a charismatic and likeable performer, accompanied at this festival by his own guitar and an accompanying trio. On the album he multitracks most of the instruments himself - including low derbouka, bass and percussion - but the soundscape is far from monochromatic. Additional studio musicians - ubiquitous Bumcello cellist Vincent Segalé, backing singer Lili and co-producer/keyboard player Cyrille Dufay - are deployed with great care to make an enjoyably mainstream world-pop album in which each track has a distinct character.

Album Review: DIAM
...a delightfully tuneful album that convincingly blends African and Western folk. The plaintive acoustic guitar riffs and yearning voice recall the "desert blues" of Baaba Maal. There's the same sense of the lone voice calling out amid emmense space, though Touré's delivery is warmer and less starkly Islamic. Traditional motifs have been adapted into well-structured, memorable songs suffused with tenderness and a heart-warming campfire intimacy.

Album Review: DIAM
Most top West African singers, such as Salif Keita and Youssou N’Dour, have a soulful, wailing tone that owes much to the powerful Islamic influence in the region. Brought up in Senegal, Mauritania and Paris, Daby Touré has a much gentler voice with the kind of relaxed lilt that is more usually associated with the Western troubadour tradition. Yet he also has strong African musical roots, and these contrasting influences combine on a lovely debut album that is made even more accessible by the sparkling production of the French electronic wizard Cyrille Dufay. To Touré’s easy-on-the-ear melodies and winning hooks, Dufay adds layers of sparkling acoustic guitars, nonAfrican percussion and subtle electronic beats and loops. It’s all done without compromising the authenticity of Touré’s African origins to create a crossover album of classy Afro-pop. If the idea of an African Nick Drake or Cat Stevens appeals, then Daby Touré is your man.