Samba Touré – you will never change what you really are..

Its when we begin taking things for granted and start categorizing into square boxes that we fall short.
For that reason it’s important to touch base with true values from time to time.

This beautiful feature on an extraordinary musician from the cultural haven of Mali paints the meaning of exactly those values: Mr SAMBA TOURE’ !!

Samba Touré (courtesy Glitterbeat Records)

Samba Touré (courtesy Glitterbeat Records)

Samba Touré just recently completed a worldwide tour promoting his new album “Gandadiko” released on the well renowned German record label Glitterbeat and will now be touring Europe with a band constellation called Malikanw a band that consists of musicians from every ethnic group of Mali which came together as a part of the Cultural Caravan for Peace project meant to support and preserve the country’s cultural heritage.

Samba represents the Songhoy people. In the band there is also a Dogon (Petit Goro), a Bambara (Mariam Koné), a Touareg (Ahmed from the band Amanar), a Wassulu singer (Sadio Sidibé), a Bwa singer (Ben Zabo) and a Bozo musician (Zoumana Tereta, sokou -trad. fiddle-).

The band will be visiting The Netherlands, France and Italy this upcoming July. Beginning on 2/3 July you can catch the band and much more at Le Murate Caffè Letterario in Firenze.

For more information, please visit Cultural Caravan for Peace

Born in Dabi in the Tombouctou region. Please describe the city as seen through child memories and please describe it as you see it today?

Dabi is a very small village. I was born there, but I grew up in Diré, in the same region of Tombouctou. I didn’t see Daby for many years, but I can imagine it didn’t change a lot, and as a lot of small villages it’s a very poor place with very humble people trying to survive between poverty and crime. I left the region when I knew I wanted to be a musician, If you stay there, you’ll just play for wedding parties, but if you want to become a professional musician, you have to move to the south.

What does Mali represent that is unique for an African country?

Mali is unique by its diversity of ethnic groups. So it’s also a variety of languages, of cultures and traditions, of musical styles. Mali is like a continent of its own, it’s a very large country with a very rich and various cultures, surely more than in a lot of other African countries.

Is it true that your mother was one of the first women to sing with Ali Farka Toure and is it difficult in general for women in Mali to reach acknowledgement?

Yes, but I was a kid at that time and I don’t have souvenirs or memories from this. My mother used to sing in local orchestras at the Biennale festival and in the same band the young Ali Farka Touré used to play guitar. It was a long time before his international success. My mother didn’t have a career, she stopped music to raise her kids, and Ali continued on the road to success.

Fadimata - Samba's mother (private photo, all rights reserved)

Fadimata – Samba’s mother (private photo, all rights reserved)

When and how did you get your first guitar?

When we were kids, we all made our first guitars with sardine boxes or other things. But my first real guitar was a gift from Ali Farka Touré, an old Fender Stratocaster from 1972, I still have it and I used it to play on not so long time ago. But it’s tired now!

Who taught you to play the guitar and who taught you to sing?

Nobody taught me how to sing. In Mali, where there is a lack of school, you don’t have music schools to learn music. Music is a part of our culture and it’s this Patrimony shared by everybody via radios that teaches us the music.

Samba Touré (courtesy Glitterbeat Records)

Samba Touré (courtesy Glitterbeat Records)

What inspires your lyrics?

Life. What I see around me. Social issues, problems in the north of Mali…with a single word I’d say ‘realities’.

Do you get easily inspired?

Of course! When you sing about problems, you’ll never stop finding inspiration, it’s sad but it’s a fact.

Samba Touré (courtesy of Glitterbeat)

Samba Touré (courtesy of Glitterbeat)

How difficult is it right now to be involved in cultural activities in Mali, especially as a musician and how has it been to be a musician in Mali during the past 10-15 years?

It’s really difficult. First because ever since the start of the crisis in Mali, cultural activities are not a lot. A lot of festivals, events and venues closed. And in Mali there are so many musicians to share the scene, that you can’t play regularly somewhere. I’d say it’s easier for young bands to play in bars or in small clubs than for professional artists. To live from your art in a country like Mali is really difficult, your only chance is if you have chance to tour outside the country.

What does music give you personally?

Pleasure and satisfaction. I don’t need any drug. When my musicians and I play well, when the audience is cool, I feel so much pleasure; I think it’s on my face when I play!

What does music give the people of Mali?

In Mali, music is not just entertainment; it’s not only for fun and dance. It’s a tool of awareness or information or support.
Music also gives a lot of courage to the people, a song like Farikoyo in my last album Gandadiko is a tribute to the farmers. So you have tribute songs to honor certain persons, awareness songs to inform about issues like ebola, peace and unity, work values, advises…

Why does Mali have such a great tradition for music, not least the desert blues?

Well I think desert blues is a western word to enclose all the musicians from Sahara in the same box. But it has no sense; there is no relation between my music and Tamasheq music or traditional music from Chad or Niger. It’s just a new ghetto they invented, like “world music” before that.
If you have so many music styles in Mali it’s for that reason I told you before: the variety of ethnic groups in Mali, more than any other West African country.

Where do the apparent psychedelic aspects of your music come from?

I don’t know what is exactly psychedelic. If you are talking about the modernized songs in my albums, it’s just a work of mixing different aspects of music I can hear from all over the world and from anytime that all come from blues. If I put some distortions in my music, it’s still traditional music, but it’s electrified, nothing more.

Let’s pretend that people elected you as President of Mali, what would be the first thing you would do for the people and what would you do for the culture?

I would nominate an artist as minister of culture, someone who knows well how it’s hard to be an artist without any support in his own country. We are better considered outside than at home, you know!
And as a president, I would take care of things like every family has a decent house to live in with power and water. It’s still not the case in Mali in 2015, so that would be my only priority. Then I’d have a lot of other things to do for health, education…Please don’t vote for me it’s too much work!!

Do you feel blessed?

Not especially. But I’m thankful to have chance to travel with my music, to discover the world, to meet wonderful people here and there, that’s a great chance I have that a lot of people would like to have.

Passions besides music?

I like watching movies, and spend time with friends and family, but nothing special, I’m a very simple man with few needs except to see my friends are ok around me.

Biggest dream as a child?

To fly in a plane. Done it!

How do you remember your childhood?

Yes, I remember our child games.

Where do you live now?

I’m in Sebeninkoro, Bamako South, not so far from the president’s house! I was in center town before for years but I have built my house in a quieter place.

Hopes for your own future?

Continue music and to build a future for my children. I’d also like to find a good booking agent in Europe to help me in my career. I don’t have one and it’s my manager, here in Bamako who try hardly to book a few shows every year but it’s very hard for him, it’s not his job. So if any cool booking agent reads these lines, please contact us!

Samba Touré (courtesy Glitterbeat)

Samba Touré (courtesy Glitterbeat)

Hopes for the future of Mali and for the people of Mali?

Yes, I want peace and unity of course, peace for development, and I also want the end of corruption, that is the second reason of our poverty.
Peace and development. What else do we need?

Favorite book?

I never been to school and I can’t read easily, just a few words, so I never read a book in my life.

Favorite meal?

I don’t know, I love a lot of things, from Malian cooking to European food. Maybe pizza is in my favorites.

Two favorite albums coming out of Mali?

“Niafunké” by Ali Farka Touré and an album by Nahawa Doubia: “Dankaw”

Two favorite albums from outside Mali?

A John Lee Hooker album, but I can’t choose which one, and I’d say a Bob Marley album like “Catch a Fire” that I listened to a lot in my youth.

Most beautiful African country you have ever seen besides Mali?

I see very beautiful things everywhere, In France, Italy or in the Netherlands but also in Guinée and in Morocco where I saw the most beautiful landscapes ever.

Mali has about 50 different local languages besides French and Bambara. Which of the languages do you speak?

I speak of course Bambara with Songhaï, my native language, but also Peuhl (Fulani) and a few words in some other languages (Soninké, Dogon…)

Biggest gift you have received in life?

My children, without any hesitation.

Samba with his son Sékou (private photo, all rights reserved)

Samba with his son Sékou (private photo, all rights reserved)

Samba with his wife and son Oumar (private photo, all rights reserved)

Samba with his wife and son Oumar (private photo, all rights reserved)

Worst disappointment you have experienced?

A lot in the music business from some people but I won’t tell who, it would be too much! And in my private life, I have been disappointed by some friends who betrayed me one day, but it’s ok, we all know these situations, it’s sad when it comes but it’s not the end.

Your strongest and weakest characteristics?

I’m a patient man, very patient. It’s a strength in some cases. And my weakness is that I can’t say no, even when I’ve been asked something that is boring for me.

Any bad habits?

If I had some, I would not tell about them!

What impact does the sun have on you?

Like for anybody it makes me tired! It’s 42 degrees today, no wind, no rain; it’s just hard to stand.

What sensations does the desert transmit and do you ever ‘listen’ to it? To some the desert gives an imagination of solitude and freedom, can you relate to that or how else would you describe it?

I think it’s a western romantic view of the desert. The realities for people coming from the desert is a hard life. But I like it by night, when the sand becomes cold as snow, when you can see the stars in the sky.

Do you practice any sport?

No, never have!

Recipe to peace and harmony, uniting the Malian people as one?

If I had the recipe, peace would be there! I really don’t know how to find peace when the ones who created this crisis still don’t want peace. There is peace and harmony between everyone in Mali; problems come from a minority of armed criminals against the whole country. It’s not a question of division between south and north as medias wrongly said. It’s a conflict created by criminals against 16 millions of Malians.

What is the meaning with life?

Life is a mystery, death is another one but I don’t think about philosophy, I’m like any other man, wondering anytime with no answers to my questions.

A favourite popular saying from your country?

‘Yiri kuru mèomè dji là ateké bamba yé’ .It’s Bambara and it means ‘Whatever is the time when the branch stays in the water, it will never become a crocodile’ or you’ll never change what you really are.

If you were to write a short poetic story in your local village language that paints your life up until today?

If I’d do it, I’ll make it a song for my next album, and I’ll dedicate the song to you as you gave me the idea, and you’ll be first to know it!


sseennsseess would like to sincerely thank Samba Touré for his availability and the beautiful answers he provided for this interview, of course we also hope to see his song dedication on a next album 🙂 🙂

A big thank you to Samba’s manager Philippe (QUICKSAND Management) for having been so kind to act as an intermedia, translating all the questions into French and all the answers back into English as well as providing a few private photos. Very grateful!

Thank you to Silvij from Glitterbeat Records for pointing me in the right direction and for providing the professional part of the photos.

Miriam Linna: A curious bird, that girl Miriam..

In a clash somewhere out there in space popped out Miriam, her need to fly high and fast caused an explosion that unveiled never before seen treasures to the world as we know it!

From those outer space ashes a new empire had born: Norton Records!…a place where each dust particle became and still!

Is further introduction really necessary after all these years?…nah…

Miriam enjoys a nice cup of coffee, so much that she swallows a gallon a day or even have it injected into her veins during busy hours…oh and she actually just released a brand new solo single called “The hand don’t fit the glove”.

Here’s to Miriam!!


The story of Miriam starts in Canada, goes through Cleveland and ends in Brooklyn?..when did you move from one place to other and at what age approx?

My family moved from northern Canada to the US – to a small town 50 miles East of Eden– I mean, Cleveland—no the shores of Lake Erie—in 1967. I left for New York City in 1976. Now you do the math!

Don’t ask a woman for her age but I’m going to dare here?

16 forever


Do you still go back to Canada once in awhile?

Only to get on stage and for the donuts and sponge toffee.

How do you remember your childhood and how do you recall your teenage days?

I was always waiting for something to happen, looking for something that I didn’t know anything about. I was born curious.

As a child what dreams did you have?

I dreamed about the pyramids and about living in a haunted library.



Tell me about your roots?

I am a Karelian Finn. My parents were Karelians, displaced by the Russians in WWII. They emigrated to Canada a few years after the war ended, with my older sister and brother in tow.

At what age did you start playing music and what inspired you to start?

I only ever played drums. I was 20 when I started getting blisters on my fingers.

Why drums?

Because I was commanded to do so, and I am an obedient sort.

dennis wilson miriam

Tell me about the brief experience as a drummer for The Cramps?

One year, almost to the day. It was exciting and I learned an awful lot about life and people. It was a hazing, and that is never a bad thing. I feel like I’m on one long hazing in this life. Even today. With this interview!

How did the A-Bones start up and what was the direct inspiration to this band?

The A-Bones sprang from the loins of the Zantees, the first band Billy and I had together.

..and then finally, Miriam went solo, what took you so long and please enlighten us about the whole process before, during and after the release?

A local genius named Sam Elwitt contacted me a year ago and said that he had an idea to cut some Gold Star Studi- style stuff and would I give a crack at vocals. I said ok.

Are you a loose train on the run?

Is running rampant a bad thing?

Miriam Debbie Harry Steven Leckie

How did you end up telling the story of early rock’n’roll?

I like back stories, the behind the scenes stuff. And every story reveals a struggle. It’s the drive, the work, the headaches and the heartaches, and often, the failures, that deserve to stand up and be counted at the end of the day. 

Miriam with Long John Hunter

Miriam with Long John Hunter

What sacrifices did you have to make in order to start up Norton?

You mean, never taking a vacation, or a day off, or spending cash on anything except making records and books? Where’s the sacrifice there?

Did Norton turn out to be more than what you expected?

We never expected anything. We started putting records together so people could hear music that was not available elsewhere. We wanted to tell the story, to bring great unlauded music made by inspired individuals, to hungry ears. The fact that we’ve been able to continue doing this thing through hell and high water must mean it turned out okay.

Miriam Billy Monoman

What have been the most extraordinary experiences and the biggest disappointments during the existence of Norton Records?

We measure time, record by record, not by days of the month or years gone by. The process of discovery, surprise, excitement, unexpected explanations, make each record we issue a thrill. Every one fills in another gap in our experience and helps us understand the world of rock and roll. Any and every disappointment that has occurred can be dispelled with the fact that certain music has come out of whatever murk we might have had to consider– even with the crushing near-defeat of losing so much in Hurricane Sandy. If anything, that experience continues to brace us for other bigger life issues that need to be pounded into extinction.

How has it been to work with and meet so many literally genuine artists from a past generation, bringing them ‘back to life’ in a modern world and with an immediate and immense global success?

Are you kidding? It’s fantastic. You’re right; these are the real geniuses, the people who worked their buns off to do things their own way.

Please tell us a special story about you and these amazing artists?

Which one of these should I elaborate on?

  1. Stuck in a men’s room with a mop and Jerry Miller.
  2. Trying to find Nyquil in the middle of a Sunday night in nowheresville, West Virginia to quell Hasil’s need for a drink- liquor stores were closed.
  3. Dinner with Esquerita at a Mexican restaurant
  4. Sorting out fridge magnets with Jack Starr and his mother
  5. Getting lowered underground in the desert with Sandy Nelson and his giant spiders
  6. Listening to the lost Link Wray tapes for the first time with his niece
  7. Getting the Ron Haydock story from Bhob Stewart
  8. Diner experience with Billy and Rudy Ray Moore, in a floor length ermine cape. Rudy. Not me.
  9. Alone in the desert hunting for Doug Sahm recordings
  10. Alamogordo meeting with Calvin and Betty Boles when we purchased Yucca Records.
  11. Andre in Chicago.
  12. Andre in New York.
  13. Andre in Spain.
  14. Real Kids fist record party I a bowling alley near Boston.
  15. Hunting down the Sonics in Tacoma when we first licensed the Etiquette masters.
  16. Recording with Mary Weiss.
  17. Conversations with Hannibal.
  18. Your choice.

In particular what does Andre Williams mean to you?

In the grand scheme of things, Andre has been a great friend, mentor, hard driving boss, and true genius. It has been my experience that the men who have lived in pimpdom actually have the best understanding of the female heart and mind. The fact that he chose to wrote from a female perspective with Sweets, the fact that he held Fortune Records’ Devora Brown in high regard, the reverence he held toward his wife, all show a soulful individual, a person of trust and honor.

Norton also became an important institution for books; please explain how that came along?

Two words: Andre Williams. Seven years ago, Andre was in drug rehab for the umpteenth time. It was wither rehab, or jail, or death. He telephoned from the rehab center in Chicago one day and said he was going to walk out, that he couldn’t stand it any more. I convinced him to stay with the promise that I would work on a project with him to satisfy the center’s requirement that he tackle something new and different as a diversion while kicking his habits. He would call collect every couple of days and we would hash over a vague plot line. He close to write from a teenage girl’s perspective, a girl who would save herself from poverty by going into drug dealing and prostitution. The dope stuff in the storyline is so overblown, that you know he was savoring every adjective while lying in that cot at Chicago Lakeshore Hospital. I had promised him that if he saw the story into a book, that I would publish it. I didn’t really believe he would stay with it, but he did, and I kept the promise. That book impressed the hell out of Harlan Ellison and Nick Tosches, and suddenly my pie in the khy dream of publishing paperbacks was a reality.

Do you have any secret passions besides music and books that we can unveil here?

Perfume. The 77th parallel. The moors. The Moors. The wind. The dark. The rain, the park, and other things!

Does Miriam ever sing in the shower?

Yes, but more so in a bubble bath, and much more so on my bicycle.

What would go through your mind sitting over supper staring out of the window on a grey rainy day?

“What a fantastic rainy day!”

Miriam 1

When you need space and time to think alone, where do you go?

I go to sleep. I can sleep anywhere, any time, on command, and begin dreaming instantly. It’s a gift and a privilege. I can be anywhere I wish, at any time, and so can you. We are remarkable creatures, we humans. Forget about “every waking hour” and thrill to the excellence of every sleeping, dreaming hour as well. It’s all so incredible I can hardly stand it.

Do you still dream of something?

Every moment of every day, and wildly. And the penultimate childhood wishes of traveling to Egypt and living in a haunted library are still very real. Life is the dream, and it is unbelievable.

Any regrets in life up until today?

Yes, not starting my Stones-stalking at an earlier age. That and missing Royston Ellis in London on May 29.

If someone reached you the ‘white house’ microphone asking you to make a bold statement to the people of the United States, how would that go?


Mission impossible, name three records that stand out from all the others?

“I Can Hear Music,” “Electric’s Theme”, and “Some Kinda Nut”.

Most beautiful place you have ever seen?

The moors. In the wind and the rain.

Weirdest place you have ever performed as an artist?

A Chinese restaurant. On New Years Eve. In Canada.

What does country music mean do to you?


Where would you be today without music?

The Graybar Hotel.


Best and worst feature of wife Miriam?

I have no bad features. Who told you that?

What does love mean to you?

Going all the way. All the time.

Life’s a bitch and then you get over it or life is really beautiful?

Oh, come on! We’re all so lucky to be right here, right there, anywhere, right now. Space is the place, like Sun Ra said. And our blue marble is flying through that space, way over the speed limit.

Satisfaction is when you.. ?

..are totally flying.


What is the most sensual thing you have ever experienced?

The August Milky Way in dark sky country. It is the most singularly fantastical sensory experience I can think of. To look up and see EVERYTHING. The answers. Three months to go.

Are you sensual?

Do you mean, does leather put me in a happy place? Or does a mouthful of butterscotch make me forget the English language? Well then, yes, I guess I am. Are you casting me in Boogie Nights II? If so, I’m THERE!

Do you have a temper?

Of course! Is that a bad thing, too? Even Jesus had a temper: “Vengeance is mine, saith the Lord.” I love quoting the Bible. It has a little something for everyone.

What is your motto?


Are you a wiz in a kitchen?

I would love it if we didn’t have to use the k-word in this interview.

Do you like cooking? 

No, I do not. I can and I do, but I can think of a hundred things I’d rather be doing.

Do you enjoy a good meal?

If it ends with an incredible cup of coffee.

What’s yer fave dish?

Coffee and a delicious, not overly mysterious sandwich.

Fave beer?

I don’t drink beer. I drink coffee.

Finally..write the lyrics to a short and simple story/poem describing Miriam’s life up until today?

A curious bird, that girl Miriam

Who seems to be in a delirium

She’s not all that dumb

But tends to succumb

To excitement which is her imperium.



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**all rights to the photos used in this article are reserved and belongs to Miriam Linna.