Sidi Touré made his first guitar as a child, constructing it from his wooden writing slate in the ancient town of Gao, Mali. Once the heart of the Songhaï empire and burial place of its Askia kings, the town rests between the Niger and the encroaching ocean of sand known as the Sahara Desert. The Songhai empire was the last of the great empires of the Sahel, reaching its zenith under Soni Alibert (Sunni Ali) in the mid 400’s. Sidi Touré was born here in 1959, but to be born a Touré, a noble family who trace their lineage directly from the Askia kings, carried a significance and onus of a past that reaches directly into the present. Like another Malian noble turned singer, Salif Keita, Sidi Touré faced a conflict between the inexorable pull of music and the expectations of family and society. Touré’s family had been sung about, and sung to, by traditional griots for centuries, but until a small boy challenged the rules, the Touré’s did not sing! Sidi Touré is currently on his first ever US tour in support of his 2011 release, Sahel Folk, via Thrill Jockey Records.