Though no relation to his countryman, the late guitarist Ali Farka Touré, he and guitarist-songwriter Sidi Touré, both descend from royal lineages whose respective families didn't accept music as a worthy career. Sidi has done his part to spread the music's unique musical style that bears some similarity to the rhythmically rich American blues of John Lee Hooker and his followers -- though neither he nor Ali Farka Touré were influenced by them. In fact, indirectly, due to the slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries, it was the other way around. Sidi Touré has been active in his native Gao since the '80s, singing with the Songhai Stars; he fronted other regional dance bands. He cut his first solo album, Hoga, in 1996 and continued both a solo career and as a singer and guitarist for hire until Thrill Jockey issued the informal, acoustic offering Sahel Folk in 2011. That album was recorded over time in informal sessions with friends at his sister's house. Koïma was actually recorded in a proper studio with a quintet featuring a second rhythm guitar, a female backing vocalist, the gourd percussion instrument known as a calabash, and the Malian violin called a sokou. The five-note pentatonic scale that designates the Songhai blues tradition is everywhere present here, but the droning blues is animated and percussive, thanks to the calabash and the interplay between the guitars. The drones are accented and undercut by gorgeous melodies on which Touré's vocals are answered and also underscored in unison by Leïla Ahimidi Gobbi. The sokou adds a somewhat brittle sonic contrast to the warm tones of the guitars, and besides another harmonic layer, adds a rich rhythmic one as well. These ten cuts, especially jumpers like "Maimouna," "Woy Tiladio," and "A Chacun Sa Chance," are beautifully balanced by more folk-oriented songs such as the title cut and closer "Euz." Still others, such as "Tonid Karaa," accent the deep blues feel of Mali's Songhai tradition gorgeously. Koïma is not only an excellent follow-up to Sahel Folk, but goes further in revealing Touré's deep musical roots and offers a wider sense of his longstanding appeal as a guitarist and vocalist from his region as well.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek