Tag Archives: Salif Keita

Salif Keita Wins La Mar de Músicas 2019 Award

Salif Keita – Photo by Thomas Dorn

Acclaimed Malian singer Salif Keita has won the La Mar de Músicas 2019 Award. La Mar de Músicas is one of the leading world music festivals in Eutrope, held in Cartagena, Spain.

Salif Keita’s was given the award for “having overcome all kinds of prejudices inside and outside Africa in his defense of the population with albinism and those who sing without belonging to the griot caste, and for the inspiration of his powerful voice, having been able to mix the deep tradition of his region with global sounds.”

Keita will collect the La Mar de Músicas 2019 award on Monday, July 22. That same day, he will perform a concert at the Cartagena festival.

More at lamardemusicas.cartagena.es/2019/

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Un Autre Blanc Showcases the Perseverance And Musical Mastery of Salif Keita


Salif Keita – Un Autre Blanc (Naive, 2018)

For more than 50 years the Malian singer/songwriter Salif Keita has become the cornerstone of Afro-pop music, pumping out stellar recordings like Seydou Bathili (1982), Soro (1987), Amen (1981), Papa (1999), Moffou (2002), Folon…The Past (2010), Anthology (2011) and The Lost Album (2017).  On February 15th, Mr. Keita will add another recording to his already considerable discography with the release of Un Autre Blanc on the Naive record label. 

The title Un Autre Blanc or Another White is a reference to the trials and tribulations Mr. Keita has faced through his albinism – a condition thought to be a sign of bad luck or misfortune by his Mandinka culture.  A glorious testament to his endurance and musical mastery, Mr. Keita embraces Un Autre Blanc

Dr. Cherif Keita, Mr. Keita’s cousin and biographer, and a professor at Carleton College explains, “When some people sing, they create social change. Salif changed the old ways in Mali, our relationship to musicianship, to classifying people. Because of his condition, he had to latch on to what he could do to survive in a harsh environment in Bamako. Music became his salvation.”

With a wealth of world tours, recordings and collaborations that include the likes of Carlos Santana, Joe Zawinul, Vernon Reid and Esperanza Spalding, Mr. Keita has proved the gold standard for fans around the world.


Salif Keita – Un Autre Blanc

With Un Autre Blanc, Mr. Keita prepares for retirement, but not before a final musical statement wrapped so tightly with his own identity as a persistent call for acceptance and an embrace for all of our differences, as well as a call for an end to conflict.

I’m a white man with a deep black African soul, and I have accepted that. Now you have to accept that difference and that contrast,” as Mr. Keita firmly puts it.

Opening with “Were Were,” a tribute to monumental figures like Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Sekou Toure, Un Autre Blanc launches listeners into the riches of Mr. Keita’s familiar vocals and musical joyfulness. Brimming over with guitars, kora, n’goni, keyboards, horns, balafon and sassy backing vocals Un Autre Blanc is a treat.  If that weren’t incentive enough to take a listen then maybe Angelique Kidjo and rap artist MHD appearing as guest artists on the raucous “Itarafo” might temp listeners. Nigerian singer Yemi Alade appears on sweetly worked “Diawara Fa.” 

Ladysmith Black Mambazo takes a turn on a wonderful track titled “Ngamale.”  Ivory Coast reggae star Alpha Blondy joins Mr. Keita in closing out the CD on the reggae goodness of “Mansa Fo la.”  Fans should also checkout tracks “Syrie,” “Tonton” and Mr. Keita’s tribute to the beauty of a Fula woman on “Bah Poulo.”

Un Autre Blanc is just another feather in Mr. Keita’s hat and just as brilliant as the very first feather.

Buy Un Autre Blanc in North America

Buy Un Autre Blanc in Europe

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Artist Profiles: Salif Keita

Salif Keita

A master of West African rhythms and credited as one of the founders of the Afropop genre, Salif Keita is world renowned for his unforgettable live performances, soaring vocals and his emotionally-fueled songs.

Born in Mali, West Africa in 1949, Salif Keita comes from a noble family, and is a descendant of Sunjata Keita, who founded the Mali Empire in 1240. Salif Keita was the third of thirteen children born to Sina Keita, a landowner in the village of Djoliba, where he grew up, near Mali’s capital, Bamako.

Born albino in a land of blistering sun and heat, with limited eyesight and poor despite his social standing, his mother had to hide him to avoid the attacks of the superstitious crowds who called for his death. In addition to the problems of growing up as an albino, Keita found the opposition of his family to his interest in becoming a singer since the traditions of his ancestry excluded members of the nobility from becoming singers. Keita’s decision to become a musician broke an important taboo as in Mali as only the lower jeli class made its living from music.

In 1970, at the age of 18, Salif Keita left Djoliba for Bamako, where he spent time as a street musician and playing in bars. The first group that he worked with was the legendary Super Rail Band, a state-supported ensemble that was based at a Bamako railway station hotel, and served as an important launching pad for the careers of numerous West African musicians, including kora player and singer Mory Kante, and guitarist Kante Manfila.

In 1973, Salif Keita left the Rail Band, and with guitarist Kante Manfila he joined Les Ambassadeurs, which later became Les Ambassadeurs International. The new group developed the fusion between traditional music and western electric influences. 1977 saw Salif Keita being awarded the National Order of Guinea by Sekou Toure, the Guinean President. By that time, Salif Keita had also discovered American singers like Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles and Tina Turner. Their powerful way of singing and presence on stage taught Keita a lot about live performances.

Restricted by the limited opportunities and political climate in Mali, the group moved south and set up base in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, where they performed and recorded successfully during the late 1970s. The epic 12 minute track “Mandjou”, that is featured on the Mansa of Mali album, was recorded live in Abidjan during this period.

In 1984 Les Ambassadeurs Internationales broke up, and Salif Keita moved to Paris, launching a career that saw him recording the classic Soro album in 1987, produced by Ibrahim Sylla.

A recording deal with Island Records followed, which resulted in the release of the album Ko-Yan in 1989, an album influenced by influential jazz fusion band Weather Report, and that led directly to Salif’s collaboration with Weather Report keyboardist, composer and arranger Joe Zawinul in 1990. With help from Carlos Santana, Wayne Shorter and a number of carefully picked musicians from Mali and France, Zawinul produced Amen, the album that made Salif the first African band leader to win a Grammy nomination.

The impressive Mansa of Mali retrospective was released in 1993 to coincide with Salif Keita’s tours of the United States, and Southern Africa. Recorded in Paris, New York and Bamako, his album, Papa, features special guests Vernon Reid (Living Color), Grace Jones and John Medeski, an album of the new African/American music, bringing together musicians from Mali and America.

On his 2002 album, Moffou, Salif Keita was joined by excellent musicians, including Cape Verdian diva Cesaria Evora on the track Yamore, guitar-hero Djeli Moussa Kouyaté from Guinea, and his old freind Kanté Manfila (acoustic guitar), both of them long-time companions of Salif.

Moffou is both the title of the album and the name of of the club that the singer opened in Bamako in 2002 to promote the West African music scene. In both cases, the choice of the name expresses his genuine desire to return to the roots of Mali.

Salif Keita

In April of 2004, Decca/Universal Music released Remixes from Moffou. The album expanded on the original recording of Moffou that took him on a tour around the world. He collaborated with some of the world’s finest producers and DJs, each bringing a unique contribution to the music, changing its tempo and atmosphere. A sound with a whole new dimension, the disc has traces of funk, house and drum-n-bass.Each song on Remixes is transformed – the songs were given a new face without distorting the delicate melodies that were originally written. The idea to remix the entire album was spawned from the feedback that was given from young music fans. They rushed out to buy “Yamore” (Keita’s duet with Cesaria Evora) and club kids went crazy for Marin Solveig’s remix of “Madan.” European FM radio stations also took notice of the remix which prompted Universal France to take a step further.

Patrick Votan, artistic director at Universal Jazz France explained, “Following the success of “Madan” we decided to ask electro artists who are close to the African scene such as Osunlade, Doctor L and Frederic Galliano to work on remixes of other tracks from the album. We also got major mainstream electro stars such as La Funk Mob (the defunct duo of Cassius Philippe Zdar and Boombass who got back together for the project), Charles Webster and Luciano on board the project in the hope that this would take the work of Salif Keita, a unique and original artist, to the ears of a new public.”

On M’Bemba (2006), the traditional instruments such as the ngoni lute played by Mama Sissoko, and the kora played by Toumani Diabate, evoke the memory of Salif Keita’s own ancestor, Sundiata Keita, the warrior king who founded the Manding Empire in the 13th century. Representing a genuine piece of family history, the new recording was the first time Salif’s foster-sisters joined him on record for the chorus of the title track. Also appearing on the album was dancehall/reggae great, Buju Banton, who lent his talents on the upbeat track “Ladji.”

The same talented group of musicians who performed on Moffou also joined Salif on M’Bemba, including Djeli Moussa Kouyate on guitar, Mino Cinellu on percussion, Salif’s early mentor, guitarist and arranger, Kante Manfila with Ousmane Kouyate also on guitar.

Keita aims to spread his message of hope through his music, through his actions, and through his words. “Happiness isn’t for tomorrow,” Keita said. “It’s not hypothetical; it starts here and now. . . . Nature has given us extraordinary things. . . . Let’s take advantage of the wonders of this continent at last – intelligently, in our own way, at our own rhythm, like responsible men proud of their inheritance. “Let’s build the country of our children, and stop taking pity on ourselves. Africa is also the joy of living, optimism, beauty, elegance, grace, poetry, softness, the sun and nature. Let’s be happy to its sons, and fight to build our happiness.”

Discography:

Dans L’Authenticité Vol.1, with Kante Manfila ‎(Badmos, 1979)
Dans l’Authenticité Vol. 2, with Kante Manfila ‎(Badmos, 1979)
Tounkan (Celluloid, 1981)
Salif Keita & Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux ‎(Badmos International Records, 1981)
Mandjou (Celluloid, 1984)
Soro (Mango, 1987)
Salif Keita & Mory Kante (Syllart Records, 1988)
Ko-Yan (Mango, 1989)
Amen (Mango, 1991)
L’Enfant Lion, soundtrack ‎(Mango, 1993)
Folon…The Past (Mango, 1995)
Sosie (MS Verdenshjørnet, 1996)
Seydou Bathily ‎(Sonodisc, 1997)
Papa (Metro Blue, 1999)
Moffou (Universal Music Jazz France, 2002)
The Lost Album Inédits (Cantos, 2005)
M’Bemba (Universal Music Jazz France, 2005)
La Différence (Universal Music France, 2009)
Talé (Universal Music France, 2012)
Un Autre Blanc (Naive, 2018)

Videos

Salif Keita – World Music Portrait (Shanachie, 2004)

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