SALIF KEITA / “Salif Keita Mixtape”
Salif Keita is revered as “the golden voice of Mali.” He was born August 25, 1949 in Djoliba, Mali. A direct descendant of Sundiata Keita, the Mandinka king who established the Malian empire circa year 1240-AD, some people consider Salif both cursed and blessed: cursed because he was born an albino and blessed because he is the most famous vocalist in Africa. His life path has not be one of ease or entitlement. His family opposed his desire to pursue the profession of music. Salif says, “In my family, it was not very easy to be a musician. My family is a royal family, and the royal family makes war – they don’t sing.” Among Keita’s people, singing is considered a low social pursuit. Keita has turned his handicap into a spur to produce beautiful music that exemplifies his Malian heritage and inspires his fans to work for the development of a better society and better world. Over the years, Keita has composed and sung music that is considered classic throughout West Africa and is admired worldwide. This Mixtape, however, is not a retrospective on Keita’s storied career, rather I am focusing on Keita’s most recent work. Most singer/songwriters Keita’s age focus more on their past accomplishments rather than pushing forward and creatively innovating music. But Salif continues to write and perform, and more importantly continues to experiment and collaborate. Salif Keita’s latest album La Difference (2009) manages to sound both traditional and innovative. You can immediately hear the prototypical African elements of pentatonic melodies and percussive based ensemble work but there is also modern instrumentation and western influenced arrangements and production techniques. Beyond the musical techniques there is also the content of La Difference, which directly addresses albinoism and confronts discrimination against albinos. Although he has had to engage these issues all of his life on a personal level, now he has chosen to create an album that directly speaks to this issue. The album has won a major award for the Best World Music Album 2010. In 1984 emigrated to Paris and did not return to live in Mali until after 2000. The first album he produced after returning home was 2002’s Moffu. Moffou was widely considered Keita’s best album in decades and paradoxically gave Keita his widest global impact. Moffou was so popular internationally, that in 2004 a Moffou remix album was issued and the remix project proved to be as successful as the original release. In this Mixtape we have selections from La Difference as well as selections from Moffou, both the original album and the remix album. Additionally, there are a few tracks from the 2006 Fuse Festival in Leeds, England. In some cases I sequenced three versions (studio, concert, remix) of the same song one after the other so that you can compare and contrast the different facets of Salif’s music. In what would normally be the twilight of a long and successful career, Salif Keita is actually producing his best work and the proof is immediately evident in the quality of his recent recordings and performances. Salif Keita exemplifies what African liberation leader from the sixties, Amilcar Cabral postulated when Cabral encouraged his comrades to return to their social sources in order to develop an authentic indigenous culture that would be grounded in its own social realities but which also would interact with cultures worldwide. The key, as Cabral noted, was being grounded, i.e. embracing who you are. A grounded individual or group could then interact with others without being beset by feelings of inadequacy, envy or other debilitating complexes. While Cabral's position may seem arcane or too philosophical to be easily understood, there is a practical application of this thesis, especially for African musicians who want to create and share their music in international circles. Through his recordings after returning to Mali, Salif Keita offers an easily appreciated example of what Cabral meant. In short: to be authentic means to understand and celebrate yourself while at the same time "learning from" (rather than "imitating") others. In other words, without getting dizzy or lost, an authentic culture is able to walk throughout the world on its own legs. Even without understanding the lyrics, Keita’s music communicates strength and beauty, pride in self-affirmation and curiosity in engaging world cultures. What is truly inspirational is that this true fusion music is created by one of the old masters of African music. Whether accompanied solely by his acoustic guitar or surrounded by the electronics of remixes, Salif Keita shines—his luminous voice rises, riding entrancing melodies and exemplifying the resurgence of Africa. But then we should not be surprised, after-all Salif Keita is a scion of a legendary nation builder. —Kalamu ya Salaam Salif Keita Mixtape Playlist La Difference 01 “Folon” 02 “Ekolo d'Amour” 03 “Djélé” 04 “Papa” Live At Fuse Festival Leeds 2006 05 “Yambo” 06 “Tassi” Moffou 07 “Yamore” 08 “Madan” Live At Fuse Festival Leeds 2006 09 “Madan” Remixes From Moffou 10 “Madan (No Traitorz Remix)” Moffou 11 “Ana Na Ming” Remixes From Moffou 12 “Ana Na Ming (La Funk Mob)” Moffou 13 “Moussolou” Remixes From Moffou 14 “Moussoulou (Yoruba Soul mix)” Moffou 15 “Here” Remixes From Moffou 16 “Here (Doctor L)”
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