Vieux Farka Touré at Outside Lands 2010


He is the son of a legendary African guitarist. Vieux Farka Touré, son of Ali Farka Touré, who recently performed at the opening ceremonies for the World Cup, is stepping out from behind his father’s legacy. In his own right, he is quickly becoming one of the most renowned African musicians. On Sunday, Vieux Farka Touré takes the stage at Outside Land’s festival, the same day Kings of Leon headline.

SFCritic (SFC): Recently, Kings of Leon had some issues with pigeon poop. Have you ever been pooped on by a pigeon?

Vieux Farka Touré (VFT): Haha no! Some have sat on my shoulder before, but they know better than to poop on me!

SFC: If you were pooped on by a pigeon at Outside Lands, would you continue performing?

VFT: Of course – I’m not there for the pigeons. I’m there for the people! Actually, we respect pigeons in my culture, so I hope they will show the same respect.

SFC: Does playing at Outside Lands feel insignificant after your recent performance at the World Cup?

VFT: No, not at all.  I am always humbled to play in front of any audience.

SFC: How does your performance at the World Cup measure on your scale of accomplishments?

VFT: Everyone wants to play for those types of things – even if you don’t get paid or whatever the case may be.  Until the day you die you can be proud that you played at the World Cup — and the first World Cup in Africa no less!

SFC: Is your experience performing and you’re reception from the crowd different in Africa than abroad?

VFT: Yes, it is.  The music that I play in Mali ends up being a bit different from what I play elsewhere. In Africa they want traditional music, which isn’t really my preference. I like to play more rock, more upbeat music.

SFC: Can you remember a point in your youth where you were awed by your father’s musicianship or prestige? Where were you and what happened?
VFT: If you always have butter in the fridge, you don’t think much about it until you leave your home and find yourself without it.  It’s then that you realize “you know what, that butter was really important to me, really valuable.” It took leaving home to realize what it meant. When I saw how he was received in foreign countries that’s when I realized “wow – this is powerful stuff.”

SFC: Originally, your father didn’t want you to be a musician. What were some of his hopes in your estimation?

VFT: He wanted me to stay away from the music business at first, and be a soldier instead.  But once he saw my passion for it, that it was truly my calling, he gave his blessing.

SFC: When you write your music, do you ever listen to it and say “Mm…this sounds too much like Ali or Toumani,” and then go back and change it?
VFT: No – I don’t analyze my music. I never consider anything other than whether or not it is ready to share with the world.

SFC: What does Koroboro rock mean? What does “black African” mean to you?

VFT: Koroboro is my ethnicity – it is the Sonrai people.  In Bambara we call Sonrai “Koroboro.” Literally it means the villagers.  Koroboro rock is Sonrai-rock.  Normally, Sonrai’s don’t rock (laughs).

Im not a fan of the term “Black African”.  I dont understand it.  You can have Black Americans, and they are all descendants from Africans. But Africans are black, simply put.

SFC: What is a passion of yours besides playing the guitar?

VFT: I love fishing, farming, hunting, and spending time with my family.  That’s about it.

SFC: If you have time to explore San Francisco, what will you hopefully do?

VFT: If you’d like to take my fishing, I’ll be happy to do that!  I’ll have some time here. I think. I need to check with my manager.  But if you want to go fishing, let’s go!