A Singer and Songwriter with a Global Perspective, Daby Touré Brings a Storyteller's Voice to Amonafi.
New album out September 18 on Cumbancha
“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
“If the idea of an African Nick Drake or Cat Stevens appeals, then Daby Touré is your man.” - The Times (UK)
Amonafi, the title of Daby Touré’s new album, means "once upon a time" in the West African language Wolof, and reflects Touré's desire to weave stories with a fresh perspective on the past, present and future of Africa. "I wanted to present my vision of Africa’s history," says Touré, "Its relationship to the world, what really happened, not peddle the same old platitudes and non-truths." Beyond a tribute to Mother Africa, where Touré was born in 1975, one can hear in this assertion a wish to break free from the aesthetics of another era.
Touré refuses to embrace the mantle of the "traditional" musician, a role that many would like him to play. The singer has always shown a love for pop: Stevie Wonder, The Police, Michael Jackson, artists who first triggered his desire to become a musician. Touré chooses to speak with his own voice, follow his instincts, and allow his work to honestly reflect the multiple influences that irrigate his identity. On Amonafi, which will be released in North America on September 18th, Touré's singular vision reveals a complex yet approachable sound, one that defies expectations and stereotypes of what it means to be an African artist today.
Born in Mauritania and raised in Senegal, Daby Touré has now lived more than half his life in Paris. Raised between two cultures, this "Afropean" fully embraces his dual nationality. Neither one nor the other, Daby Touré is a citizen of the world in perpetual reconfiguration. Touré Touré, the group he founded in the late 1990s with his cousin Omar, was already a first step towards his goal to build bridges between Africa and the world. In the early 2000s, he was on the roster of Peter Gabriel's label, Real World before perceiving that the label's well-defined sound and image became a straitjacket for a musician eager for artistic freedom. It was time for a change. "Of course I carry Africa inside me, I sing in languages of West Africa: Fulani, Soninke, Wolof. But with this new album, I approach what I like most: soul, pop, music we can sing beyond borders."
His fifth album marks the continuation of a solo career that began ten years ago. Amonafi alternates between bittersweet songs and more playful ones, moving from flavors of folk and soul to upbeat Afropop. Touré is an unclassifiable author and prolific composer, a subtle singer, a multi-instrumentalist who has made this new record almost entirely by himself. Working at his home studio, Daby Touré is as much an artist as a craftsman. In Amonafi listeners can sense an identity in transit, one moving away from clichés. It's a fitting image for the soundtrack, a series of little stories, which paint an image of a creative mind that is always in action.
This album is his way of telling us "how the story has gone so far." In the opening track, "Woyoyoye (A Cry)," Touré sings a tale of love inspired by the daily life of the village where he spent his childhood. On the song "Amonafi (Once Upon a Time)" Touré sings of a time "when the men and women of Africa were enslaved and no longer controlled their own destiny. At first, they lived joyfully and free, in peace and in harmony with nature. One morning, men came from afar and forever broke this tranquility and since then Africa has been adrift and its children with it."
The song "Kiba" decries the migration of the children of Africa. According to Touré, "No one can prevent this, because it is in the nature of man to migrate. But the problem is that the continent needs its youth. We must realize that it is they who will build our future." "Oma (Call Me)" reminds us that Paris is not the El Dorado that some people think it is. "The song was inspired by a Romanian woman who begs near my home in Paris," says Touré. "One day she told me her story, and I sympathized with all her suffering, her humanity. "Oma," is the cry of this woman."
Many of Touré's songs have female characters as their protagonists. "Debho (Women)" is a tribute to women who Touré feels "bear the weight of our whole society." He sings, "To you, who works hard from sunrise to sunset / O woman of Djeri, I pay tribute to you / Your ancestors are watching you. Your ancestors bless you." Women earn praise from Touré in other ways as well, as in "Little Song," which mischievously evokes "a woman who has men at her feet."
Rooted in the everyday life yet attached to more distant dreams, the stories told in Amonafi speak to everyone. According to Touré "Each song is trying to tell you something, to bring you on a little voyage that permits you to take a little moment of meditation on each topic. I have known incredible people, incredible cultures. I am someone that is touched by humanity." Touré has also faced his share of struggles, "I know what hunger is, I know what heat is, I know what pain is, I know what joy is, and I know what evolution is, and I know what energy can bring. And I also know that approaching people can change things in life."
This life experience has led Touré to compose songs such as "Ndema (Help Me)," which illustrates the nightmare of a young man unable to find work. "He looks for something he cannot find, because it just does not exist!" On "Kille (The Way)," Touré reminisces about life in small African village, suggesting that the answers to the struggles of modern life may be found in a return to the ways of the past. "I sing about these fundamentals, sometimes very basic stuff, things that guided my early life and that I may miss today. I need to constantly recharge my batteries and go back to my roots." That need echoes in "Soninko," a tribute to the Soninke people. "I try to tell our story," notes Touré, "to highlight our thinkers. We have been and continue to be a great civilization."
One highlight of Amonafi is "Khone (Enemy)," which was co-written by Touré's father Hamidou, along with Ablaye Waiga. "It is an excerpt from an opera, composed for the 1969 Pan-African Festival in Algiers," recalls Touré. "It was originally a long treatise about black power. I rearranged it into an acapella version in which I sing that we must be aware of our history, and pass the torch to future generations. Today we are all responsible for the past."
Amonafi represents a new chapter in the life of Daby Touré. A page has been turned, but it is far from the final chapter of Daby Touré's career, indeed Amonafi is certainly just the beginning of fresh and exciting adventure, one with many more stories to tell.