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Ali Farka Toure; Malian won two Grammy Awards

BAMAKO, Mali -- Two-time Grammy Award winner Ali Farka Toure, one of Africa's best-known performers, died yesterday in his native Mali. He was 66 or 67.

Mali's Culture Ministry said Mr. Toure died at his home in the capital, Bamako. His record company, World Circuit Records, said he suffered from bone cancer.

Mr. Toure melded traditional Malian stringed instruments and vocals with the American blues guitar work he considered firmly rooted in West Africa, where most North American slaves were shipped from.

One of the original progenitors of a genre known as Mali Blues, Mr. Toure played a traditional stringed instrument called the gurkel. He was best-known overseas for his 1994 collaboration with American guitarist Ry Cooder on ''Talking Timbuktu," which netted him his first Grammy.

He won his second Grammy last month, taking traditional world music album honors for his ''In the Heart of the Moon" album, performed with fellow Malian Toumani Diabate. World Circuit Records said Mr. Toure had completed work on a new solo album.

Across this deeply impoverished West African nation, people mourned Mr. Toure's passing and radio stations suspended regular programming to broadcast his signature, lilting sounds.

''A monument has fallen. With the death of Ali Farka Toure, Mali is losing one of its greatest ambassadors," said Mbaye Boubacar Diarra, a television producer.

''It's as if I lost my father," singer Djeneba Seck said through her tears.

Mr. Toure was born in 1939 in the Sahara Desert trading post of Timbuktu. Like many Africans of his generation, the exact date of his birth was not recorded.

He learned to play the gurkel at an early age and later took up the guitar. He cited many Western musicians for inspiration, including Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and John Lee Hooker.

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