SALIF KEITA / “Seydou”

Typically, when I think of African music, what first comes to mind is uptempo, danceable, percussive music. In this post, I’m going to drop a few selections of African music featuring the slower, more reflective side of the continent. madala kunene 01.jpg First up is “Marriage” from Madamax (M.E.L.T. - 1998), an extended piece by South African guitarist Madala Kunene and Swiss guitarist and producer Max Lässer. If you’re struck, as I am, by how ethereal this guitar music sounds, by the way it sounds like something out of a reverie, you should know it’s nothing more than an expression of how the artists themselves feel. “When I’m playing,” Kunene has said, “My brain is not there. Each time I go to a place I’ve never been before.” diely moussa kouyate 01.jpg Next we’ll check out a tune named “Bamananke” by Diely Moussa Kouyaté. Over the years, Kouyaté has made a name for himself as Salif Keita’s guitarist. This selection, from Kouyaté’s solo release, Sebe Alaye (Lusafrica - 2002), practically sounds like an extension of the soothing yet dynamic guitar work on “Marriage.” gigi 05.jpg We’re going to stay with the same meditative feel but take things in a more modern direction in terms of technique and instrumentation. Ejigayehu “Gigi” Shibabaw is a young Ethiopian singer who always sounds good to me whether she’s singing traditional music with her band Abyssinia Infinite or performing in a more modern style on her solo releases. This week’s selection, a remix of her tune “Guramayle” from Illuminated Audio (Palm Pictures - 2003), uses electronic keyboards and loops to create the same hypnotic feeling that Kunene and Kouyaté achieve with their acoustic guitars. Both Kalamu and I have raved about Gigi before and given her track record I’m sure we’ll do it again. bau 01.jpg It’s acoustic time again. Rufino “Bau” Almeida is a guitarist and songwriter from Cape Verde who is best known as the bandleader for the enchanting queen of Cape Verdian pop, Cesária Évora. Bau’s instrumental tune “Estronhe E Criolo" from Silencio (Lusafrica - 2003) continues the trend of gentle, guitar-led music from the Mother Continent. But while the other musicians in this post are primarily dealing with mood, Bau’s tune is an actual composition (there are verses, choruses, a bridge, etc.) and Bau’s fleet-fingered playing is as impressive as it is relaxing. salif keita 07.jpg Our feature track is something really special. The short version of the story goes like this: about ten years ago, a French sound engineer was working on a film in Mali. The legendary singer Salif Keita had a part in that film. The two became acquaintances and at the end of filming, the sound engineer asked the vocalist if he’d be willing to sing something on tape. Keita agreed, the two went to the sound engineer’s room and that was that — the soundman pressed ‘record’ and Keita started singing.* The result speaks for itself. If you want to read the original version of the story, follow this link to visit the excellent music blog Benn Loxo Du Taccu (‘The Sound Of One Hand Clapping’). Obviously, you can’t buy this track anywhere, but the studio version of “Seydou” is available on Keita’s 1995 album Folon. —Mtume ya Salaam * Although I’m pretty sure Keita doesn’t play guitar. Maybe it’s Kouyaté? Maybe not.
           So much I want to share              
This is the kind of post that is frustrating for me. There is so much I want to share in this vein but… well, you know, we can only do so much at one time. So we will revisit this thread. (Yeah, I know, I haven’t forgot the Milton Nascimento and a bunch of other stuff I’m supposed to get to—I’m sure I’m going to die before we exhaust all of the music we’d like to share.) salif keita 01.jpg Anyway, as the above photo clarifies, Salif does play guitar and most likely Salif is accompanying himself on that cut…. OK, I can’t resist. I recently got hold of a bootleg of a Salif concert in Leeds, England. I’ve got to drop a cut into the mix. Just one…. This is called "M'Bemba" and it's teetotally badddd! Man, Mtume, you be starting stuff! To be continued…. —Kalamu ya Salaam

This entry was posted on Monday, May 5th, 2008 at 12:12 am and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “SALIF KEITA / “Seydou””

rich Says:
May 5th, 2008 at 7:25 am

bring on salif. the man is an icon and has a fascinating personal history – royalty, rebel, cultural ambassador and innovator. plus that amazing voice can just touch your soul…

The Magnificent Goldberg Says:
May 9th, 2008 at 11:01 am

Nice compilation. Djeli Moussa Kouyate has appeared on scores of albums by Mandinke singers; not just Salif Keita’s. I have only one album of his, the 1995 “Kankou Moussa” on Bolibana. I must have a look for “Sebe alaye”.

OK – who’s playing guitar on the version of “Seydou Bathily”? It could be Salif but I saw him playing guitar on a TV programme several years ago and I don’t think the guitar playing on that track is much like I remember him playing on the TV documentary. Who it DOES sound like to me is Kante Manfila, who was Salif’s partner in the band “Les Ambassadeurs”. The pair had recorded “Seydou Bathily” in 1980 – a completely different version, of course – and it doesn’t seem too far-fetched to me that Manfila would have hung out with Salif, even so long after they’d broken up the band.

Here’s a link to Graeme Counsel’s discography of Salif.

I must say that I’m not really all that keen on Salif Keita. Not that he’s bad, but there are so many Mandinke singers (I have nearly 250 Mandinke albums) who are better; whose music – whether celebratory or cerebratory – moves me so much more.

Here are a few Mandinke guitar albums you might want to try finding – they’ve all been out on CD.

Kante Manfila – Kankan blues – Popular African Music
Sekou Bembeya Diabate – Diamond fingers – Dakar Sound (originally issued as “Diata” on AMD, if you can find Guinean K7s in San Diego :))
Djessou Mory Kante – Guitare seche – Popular African Music
Grand Papa Diabate – Guitar, extra dry – Popular African Music.


The Magnificent Goldberg Says:
May 9th, 2008 at 11:04 am

PS the original label for “Diata” is AMC – sorry for the typo.


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