POTTED PROFILE: Salif Keita

 |   |  1 min read

POTTED PROFILE: Salif Keita

The man often referred to as "the Golden Voice of Africa" (and that doesn't mean he's that continent's John Farnham) has had quite an extraordinary career.

He was born in Mali and was a direct descendant of Sundiata Keita, the founder of the nation. Which meant that as one of royal lineage he was well above being a griot (a court singer/conscience-cum-town crier to the royal family).

But he was born albino and was denied by his family -- and so left town and joined a band. Not an uncommon path in most cultures, but he also had the talent and good luck to join the increasingly famous Super Rail Band in the late 60s.

From there he moved through a couple of versions of Les Ambassadeurs in the 70s, fled Africa due to political unrest, and by the mid-80s was in Paris where he was championed by the West African ex-pat community and increasingly came to the attention of "world music" aficionados.

Since then he has recorded on a number of well-placed international labels (Mango, Blue Note, Capitol and Universal among them) but his label-hopping also suggests something else: while people at big record companies like him they don't know how to market this emotionally direct, often woozy and wonderful music -- perhaps because it is sung in a language commonly called "foreign"?

Salif Keita has a voice which shifts from deep personal emotion to often amusing pop, and that is enough. Salif Keita is a star, no question.

Share It

Your Comments

post a comment

More from this section   World Music articles index

Womad Artist 2014: James Lindsay of Braebach

Womad Artist 2014: James Lindsay of Braebach

Double bassist James Lindsay of Scotland's Breabach says what they will be delivering at the forthcoming Womad in Taranaki is quite simple: “Expect a varied and exciting showcase of... > Read more

Arinushka: Old Faith (ARC Music)

Arinushka: Old Faith (ARC Music)

Years ago I was given a birthday card which read, "If you didn't know your age, how old would you be?" Let's flip that a little and ask about this fascinating album, "If you... > Read more

Elsewhere at Elsewhere

GUEST WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER JONATHAN GANLEY speaks with documentarian photographer Gil Hanly

GUEST WRITER AND PHOTOGRAPHER JONATHAN GANLEY speaks with documentarian photographer Gil Hanly

Photographer Gil Hanly neatly sums up the motivation behind her work. “I’m a documenter, not an art photographer. I photograph the things I’m involved in”. Gil has... > Read more

U23D CONCERT MOVIE: Even Better Than the Real Thing?

U23D CONCERT MOVIE: Even Better Than the Real Thing?

From where I hear it, the last couple of U2 albums have been a musical retreat from their innovative albums of the early 90s such as Achtung Baby and Zooropa, the only albums by them I have ever... > Read more