Born in Mali in the 1940s, in a poor and landlocked village, Salif Keita dreamt of travelling the world with his music. Salif, an albino, enjoys fighting prejudice. He says: "Je suis noir, ma peau est blanche et moi j'aime bien ça, c'est la difference qui est jolie" ("I am black, my skin is white and I like that, difference is pretty") in his album La différence, winner of the Best World Music prize in the 2010 Victoire de la musique French awards.
The singer has mixed an extraordinary range of musical genres throughout his career, including rock, blues, jazz and salsa. Although he has never lost sight of his African roots, he has always opened himself to new horizons. This is an overview of just some of a broad range of influences on this pioneering singer and songwriter, who dislikes the label "world music", because "all music is world music, nobody comes from anywhere else!"
Salif Keita in a few words
Born in 1949, Salif Keita is descended from Soundjata Keita, the founder of the Mandinka empire, which stretched across large areas of West Africa in the 13th century. Because he was born to a noble caste, Salif was not allowed to be a musician, a profession traditionally reserved for griots(troubadours who pass down the sagas of the empire from father to son). However, Salif was ostracized because of traditional beliefs that albinos have evil powers, and broke this law.
"I had a difficult childhood [...] and music was my only escape," he says (Midi Libre, July 11, 2010).
Cast out by his family when he became a professional musician, Salif joined two Malian orchestras: the Bamako Rail Band, and later the Ambassadeurs. This was a period in which many African countries were seeking independence, and was therefore artistically very rich.
In the 1980s, when Salif moved to France, world music burst onto the European music scene. He had a series of hits with the albums: Soro(1987), Ko-Yan (1989), Amen (1991), Folon (1995), Sosie (1997) and Papa (1999). After experimenting across all musical genres, Salif returned to Mandinka music. He created an acoustic trilogy - Moffou(2002), M'Bemba (2005) and La différence (2009), which marked his return to Mali. Salif has been back in the country of his birth since 2001, setting up the SOS Albinos Foundation and a recording studio,Moffou, to support local artists (as he explains is this interview). Supported by Vivendi and UNESCO, Malian sound engineers attend atraining program at the studio designed to increase professionalisation in the local cultural sector. This new "face" of Salif can be seen in this video (in French) for the album La différence.
After Anthology (2001), which summarizes his thirty year career in eleven tracks, Salif is back in 2012 with a new album. Taléis born from the encounter between the Malian artist and Philippe Cohen Solal, music producer and member of the trioGotan Project. Guest artists are featured such as the American Esperanza Spalding and Bobby McFerrin, CameroonianMany Dibango and Londoner Roots Manuva. A new musical adventure seized here by the album trailer.