Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure

By Banning Eyre | April, 2007

Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure has brought string-picking wizardry from the desert towns of West Africa to the nightclubs of New York City. Born in 1963, in Niamey, Niger, to a Sonrai family from Gao, Mali, he passed his youth in a multi-ethnic neighborhood surrounded by Peul, Bambara, Sonrai, and other peoples, and as he put it, “They all played music.” Local radio filled his ears with the sinuous, bluesy strains of desert folklore and the melodious bombast of Mande griots. When his parents returned to Mali, Toure recalled, “They came back with cassettes by Ibrahim Hamma Dicko, Fissa Maiga, and Ali Farka Toure, who sang in a language we understood, and I was incredibly inspired by the originality of this music.” Toure’s musical gift became obvious when he started hanging out in the Niamey nightclub where his uncle, Johnny Ali Maiga, led a band.


“Johnny Ali Maiga played folklore, like Ali Farka Toure,” said Toure, “But he also loved rock. His group was on the radio in Niamey, and it sounded like the Malian music I was listening to at home, but sung in Zerma, the national language of Niger.”

By the early ’80s, Toure was playing guitar and flute, and his first band incorporated electric guitar, bass, drums, and brass, and merged regional folk styles with international pop. When the group took first prize in a national competition, Toure became a full-time musician. By the late ’80s, he was leading Super Kassey—the first Niamey band to travel abroad and record in a modern studio.


Before long, Toure was working as a guitar instructor at the European-run Center for the Education and Promotion of Music. In 1992, Toure teamed up with singer/flutist Yacouba Moumouni to create Niger’s most successful roots pop band to date, Mamar Kassey. Mamar Kassey’s two electrifying CDs, Denke Denke (1999) and Alatoumi (2000) showcase Toure’s guitar mastery and formidable arranging skills. The music is rooted in tradition, but molded into brisk arrangements that include key modulations and bursts of solo improvisation.

“Improvisation existed in Sonrai music,” explained Toure, “but in another form. In our ceremonies, there’s an original melody that is played by the kurbu [a 3-stringed lute]. When the energy rises between the players and the dancers, the kurbu player leaves his melody, and follows his heart. But if you tell that kurbu player to work with a modern group and ‘improvise,’ you have to explain to him what it means.”

Mamar Kassey’s travels eventually brought Toure to New York City, where he now lives and performs with his current band, Deep Sahara. Toure can cradle an acoustic guitar and fingerpick his way through desert trance grooves, and he can also take up a flatpick, and wail on electric—edging desert folklore into the realm of blues and rock. One day, he plans to return to Niger to set up a studio and form an international touring band. For now, Toure is merely one of the most riveting African guitarists to be found in the United States.



Vision Festival 2008: Day 6 - Finale

Published: July 28, 2008                                                                                      

By John Sharpe


Day 6


Lewis Barnes' Hampton Roads

Roy Nathanson's Sotto Voce

Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure's Deep Sahara

William Parker's Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield


Vision Festival 2008

Clemente Soto Velez Cultural Center

New York City

Day 6: Festival Wrap-Up


“the Vision Festival continues to provide a much needed showcase in New York City for avant-garde jazz and continues to emphasize that this is an African-American art form”


This aggregation was Nathanson's solution to his quest to make words and music interchangeable in storytelling. Lined up across the stage in addition to the leader's alto saxophone, we had Curtis Fowlkes on trombone, Napoleon Maddox using his voice as a human beat-box, Tim Kiah on bass and Sam Bardfield on violin, with all of them singing, too, at various points in the performance.


Nathanson comes on like a self-deprecating Jewish comedian, but with a saxophone, his humorous songs spiced with twisting solos, or perhaps it should be the other way round. Overlapping tiers of riffs, lines and vocals meshed for an entertaining set, with the high point Nathanson's moving tribute to his brother who died when he was young, incorporating a tape of Allan Ginsberg reciting "Strange now to think of you...."


Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure's Deep Sahara


Fast turning into vocals night, Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure's brand of African roots jazz foregrounded Kali Z Fasteau on nai flutes, soprano saxophone and vocals alongside the leader's guitar and vocals, with backing from piano, bass, drums and African percussion. Their infectious grooving songs, peppered with jazzy solos, certainly got the audience going, with one appreciative punter coming down front to shower the stage with dollar bills. The percussionist delighted in embellishing the rhythms with both talking drum and gourd, earning himself a further payoff from the enthusiastic punter.


William Parker's Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield


Closing out the Festival for another year was the NYC debut of William Parker's Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield project, drawing inspiration from Mayfied's pioneering songs addressing issues of African American pride and community. Parker's arrangements of the late soul legends songs mixed in original compositions, alongside additional words by poet/playwright Amiri Baraka. Sharing vocal duties with Baraka was the elegant Leena Conquest, from Parker's Raining On The Moon ensemble. In the horn section were Sabir Mateen on reeds, Darryl Foster on soprano and tenor saxophones, and the returning Lewis Barnes on trumpet, while the powerhouse driving the band comprised Hamid Drake on drums, Dave Burrell on piano, Barnes' son on guitar, and of course Parker himself on bass. Fittingly given the emphasis on community at this Festival, the band was to be accompanied for the second half of the show by the young people of the New Life church choir directed by Angela Moses.


Kicking off with "Freddy's Dead," the funky beat and riffing horns behind the singing of Conquest and interjections of Baraka quickly established that this was one of Parker's more accessible outfits. In fact a regular groove underpinned almost the whole set, with the only outside elements being the horn fills and solos percolating up out of the mix. Baraka was over amplified compared to Conquest, though the balance was readjusted as the set progressed through "A Little Sugar" and "It's Alright."


Inspired by Foster's serpentine soprano saxophone solo on the former, Conquest dismounted the stage for a session of her trademark dancing down front to wild applause. As a link to the latter piece, Parker indicated for Burrell to take centerstage, plink-plonking initially, but then crashing wildly, by way of some off- kilter stride before finishing with more flailing runs.


For the second part of the set, Parker invited the 20-piece New Life Choir to join them, down in front of the stage, immediately in front of where I was sitting, for a funky "People Get Ready." Their spirit was irresistible. During the wailing horn breaks, they swayed back and forth clapping enthusiastically, before belting out the next chorus. Parker and Drake segued into "Love Is All We Need" and then a deeply affecting "This Is My Country" with the young men and women in the choir giving it their impassioned all. Inspiring, uplifting, and impossible not to be moved. It still brings a smile to my face as I write these words. Naturally they received a standing ovation, and indeed the set was yet another high point in what had been an excellent festival.

Festival Wrap Up

As the audience said their goodbyes to friends new and old at the close of the 13th Annual Vision Festival, the vibe amongst the regulars was that this had been one of the best festivals in recent years, with some incredible highs like the Kidd Jordan celebration, Bluiett's set, Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quintet and Paul Dunmall's trio, and just a few lows, one of them being the unseasonable heat. Having a venue with two performance spaces allowed more dance, visual art and spoken word, although it meant that the audience for them was more select.


In spite of a slightly more diverse roster, the Vision Festival continues to provide a much needed showcase in New York City for free jazz, or avant-garde jazz, call it what you will, and continues to emphasize that this is an African-American art form. Here's hoping that organizer Patricia Nicholson Parker succeeds in her aim of finding a permanent home for Vision music and other arts, and here's to many more Vision Festivals in the future.

Photo Credit

Frank Rubolino (Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure, William Parker)

John Sharpe





Mamar Kassey

The band Mamar Kassey was formed by Abdoulaye Alhassane & Yacouba Moumouni in 1995. Yacouba's history as an artist starts when he left his village of pastoralists for Niamey after his father's death and a conflict with his elder brother. Aged 10, he walked about 200 km to Niger's capital. In 1979, he met the singer Absatou Danté, sister of the director of the Ballet National du Niger, Alhassane Danté. She taught him the musical traditions of his country. He learned the seyse, the flute of the Peul (Fulani), and after seven years of training, he was adopted in Absatou Danté's band, and later in the Ballet national. In 1990, he became one of the singers of abdoulaye’s Band Orchestre Takeda, the house orchestra of the newly opened musical academy Centre de formation et de promotion musicale in Niamey. At the CFPM, he met Abdoulaye Alassane, guitarist, and band leader of Orchestre Takeda. Alhassane had created Super Kassey back in 1983. This band, which was the house band of the night club Gaskama, broke up in 1988. When Mamar Kassey was created, Yacouba called in the best musicians of country, some of them he met at the CFPM, among them Abdoulaye Alhassane. The music of Mamar Kassey has a distinct West African flavor, comparable to the music of Mali, but uses instruments and musical styles from Niger. The lyrics are in Songhai or Peul.





The Jazz museum in Harlem

Past Events

Jazz for Curious Listeners

New Artists You Should Know About: Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure

July 22, 2008

Instructor: Loren Schoenberg


Abdoulaye Alhassane is a brilliant multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and producer from Niger and Mali. His principle instrument is guitar, and he sings and plays Molo, Gurmi and a number of other Central Saharan string instruments. He was musical director, composer and lead guitarist for the wonderful Niger roots band, Mamar Kassey, that toured internationally to rave reviews. Mr. Alhassane also launched the careers of Moussa Poussy and many other singers from Niger, for whom he composed and arranged all of the music. Of the same tradition as his mentor, Ali Farka Toure, Alhassane is a master of the music of many Saharan cultures and languages: Songhai, Sonrai, Tamaschek, Peul, Toureg, Zerma, Hausa and others. His original music is rich in complex rhythms, beautiful blue modes, and full of joyous enthusiasm.


Expect to witness and hear the intersection of the blues, jazz and African music by this exciting

musician that you should know about.




© 2014 Copyright - Abdoulaye Alhassane Toure / Abdoul Records  DBA

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