Daby Touré’s soothing sound
New album, Lang(u)age
Straddling pop, French easy listening and world music, Daby Touré’s songs are a soothing balm for the soul. Lang(u)age is an intimate musical rendition of personal memories and multiple identities.
RFI Musique: What have you been doing since the release of Stéréo Spirit in 2007?
Daby Touré: I’ve been travelling, seeing friends and family. I needed to stop for a bit and take stock. It wasn’t a conflict with my music, but my body and mind needed a break. It was time to stop running around and performing concerts all the time. When you release your first album, no one knows who you are, then the second one comes along and the criticisms kick in. I didn’t like that much because I have a personal approach to music and it works like a therapy for me.
A therapy to cure what?
To make life generally sweeter! It does me good to pick up my guitar and play, and it does others good too. When I say therapy, it sounds a bit scary, but music is a travelling companion for me and a refuge, a peace haven. What matters is sincerity, being yourself, and I’m a simple guy. I like to spend time in Africa and eat tiep (Ed’s note: a local rice dish) and hang out with friends. When I go to Dakar, I travel to Casamance and then up to Djeol and I don’t do anything, I just take it all in. My music is the same. I intentionally try to keep things simple.
Several lyrics writers were involved in this album, including some unusual ones….
It’s them who chose me. I was playing one day, and Maxime Le Forestier came to see me and he said, “Come visit me at home,” and so I went and had tea and a chat one afternoon. He was interested in my story and he wrote the lyrics for Chez les Autres. My whole life has worked like that. If you are sincere I think you touch people. It was the same with Abir Abir Nasraoui, Marc Estève, etc.
The first track, Chez les Autres, is about your own life. Are there any other titles about you in the collection?
Lang(u)age tells the story of my grandfather who left Mali for Casamance, where he had a family. The drought forced him to move on because he was a shoemaker and he needed leather, which was getting hard to come by in Kayes. He was called Daby too. He died in 1958 at nearly 80 years old. His life was quite similar to mine. Obviously, all of the languages sung in the record are also about my life, and that’s why the album is called Lang(u)age. When I was three years old, my parents separated and I went to live with some people I didn’t know and travelled in the desert in Mauritania, Casamance and south Senegal. That’s why I can speak Mauritanian Arabic, Wolof, Pular, Soninke, and also French and English, enough to understand and be understood. Throughout my life, I’ve adapted.
In Papillon, you sing a duet with your father, Hamidou Touré (Ed’s note: member of Touré Kunda). Was that a first?
Yes, and the duet is very symbolic because my father didn’t want me to go into music, and that has made things difficult between us in the past. We did a song about the village we both grew up in: Djeol, in the south of Mauritania.
How did you convince him?
He wouldn’t hear anything about it for years. Then the day I played at Bercy with Peter Gabriel, I performed for fifteen minutes on my own in front of thousands of people. When I got down from the stage I saw him, and he was crying. I think that’s the day he changed his mind.
Did you plan what you were going to sing together?
No. I told him my memories: the colourful outfits the women used to wear at baptisms, going to the river to wash every day, big parties in the village square, the nights when wives were taken from their new husbands for the dowry…. And at the end he said to me, “Yes, you’re right, I remember all that too, and I can see that you have come a long way and yet you haven’t forgotten where you come from.” Then he ended with, “You are a good son, and I’m proud of you.” I was very moved.
Since the eighties and Touré Kunda, would you say that our view of African artists has changed?
We still get typecast. As soon as we sing in a language that’s not French or English, it gets labelled “world music”. I don’t feel like I belong to one world rather than another. Basically, my music represents what I am: several languages, travels, and meeting people. I came from Mauritania, I live in France, which is my adoptive country, and I feel like my music is unique, I don’t want to be pigeonholed!
Daby Touré Lang(u)age (Polydor) 2012