If you’re an Anglophone fan of Vieux Farka Touré, and you’ve been pining to sing along but your grasp of other languages is shaky at best, this is good news: Touré has been collaborating with an American vocalist. New York-based, fairly outré singer, Julia Easterlin adds her voice to a project that they’re calling Touristes, the first taste of which has been making its way around the Internet.
“Little Things” finds both artists taking a little bit off their fastballs. Touré’s unmistakable guitar mastery is laid back, leaving space for a peppering of kora, subdued percussion that flutters more than it pounds. Easterlin, whose own albums are made with loops of her own voice, is in a coffee house-friendly repose. Even as the track gains momentum, it feels like it grows horizontally, becoming more expansive.
Easterlin joins Touré’s storied line of collaborators, which includes kora legends Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, jazz guitarist John Scofield, Israeli pianist Idan Raichel, and even Dave Matthews. The scope of music in this group is evidence enough that Easterlin would fit right in, but just a cursory glance at their websites makes it easy to see how the two would recognize artistic kin in each other.
The bios on both Touré’s and Easterlin’s websites both start off with references to their families; Touré’s of course mentioning his father, the Malian guitar legend Ali Farka Touré, while Easterlin proudly claims her place as progeny of “educators, community organizers, artists and travelers.” In the course of her fine-arts education, Easterlin studied Afro-Cuban music and West African dance. In the course of his own education, Touré played the drums and calabash, and expanded his sound to include elements of rock and Latin music while exploring the West African music “that is echoed in the American blues.”
When Easterlin sang with the Touré-Raichel Collective in New York last year, they treated the crowd at the Symphony Space to a bluesy downbeat rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.” Any dorm-room strummer knows that Dylan is one musical lingua franca. We’re excitedly awaiting the full album from Touristes, in whatever language it arrives speaking.