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May 2004

By Wilson Morales

Distributor: First Run Features
Producer: Jacques Sarasin
Director: Jacques Sarasin
Cast: Ali Farka Toure, Ballake Sissoko, Blaise Pascal, Boubacar Traore, Madieye Niang
Running Time: 76 min


Early in the 1980s, there was a film that came out called "Eddie and The Cruisers", in which the life and music of a legendary singer who disappeared was brought back to the forefront through the discovery of a zealous fan. His music became known again by a new generation and the legend grew. That film was fiction, but in real life, the story was true for Boubacar Traore, a Malian guitarist and singer also known to his countrymen as KarKar. Just like the fictional film, Traore's legend started in 1960s when his music united a country when it gained its independence from France. Presented by Jonathan Demme, "I'll sing for you", is an exceptional documentary that highlights the career of a forgotten and gifted musician. Sometimes it takes a story like this to appreciate how good the music is.

"I'll sing for you" is presented in many different ways as we are told of Boubacar's life through old colleagues as well as his music, which serves as a secondary character. Traore was also a simple family man who cared for his loved ones deeply. He never really for the popularity that surrounded him even as one of his hits, Kar Kar Madison, was being played constantly throughout the streets and nightclubs of Mali. When he felt it was time to move on, he simply put the music to bed and settled in Paris with his wife, Pierrette. When she died in childbirth, the emotional stress became too much and he went to Paris and worked several odd jobs, such as a tailor; he really didn't know the value of his music. When a music producer heard some of Boubacar's old radio recordings in the 1990s and discovered him, he offered him the chance to come out of obscurity by recording a new album. That gave Boubacar the chance to come back to Mali and reclaim the glory that he left behind. By that time, most of the country assumed he had died.

As we see Boubacar today, we see the changes within his style of playing the guitar, such as him going acoustic as opposed to electric. His songs are mostly a tribute to his dead wife. As he visits his village and Pierrette's grave, we see a man dedicated to his country and loved ones, dead and alive. While the film is a revelation to those who are and will be a fan of his music, it would have been interesting to see a picture of his wife, being that she is the reason he plays again. Also his religious beliefs are explored but never defined to a certain extent. It would have been interesting to see and hear Kar Kar speak about return as opposed to perspectives from others but nevertheless, it's the music that we are focusing on, and that where's the glory is. To see this aged blues man play and notice that he hasn't his touch of the guitar is worth the price. The music and the man has found his peace, and "Kar Kar" is reborn again.