Salif Keita

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Salif Keita started his career as a professional singer in 1970, when he became a singer of one of the two big bands in Mali, the Rail Band. The Rail Band, that played in the restaurant of the railway station of Bamako, had already started using Malian musical traditions in addition to Latin classics. In 1973, Salif changed to another big band, les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, which was considered making more modern music. In 1978, the group changed its name to Ambassadeurs Internationaux when key members moved to Abidjan, in order to look for more possibilities for recording and for reaching new (international) audiences.

In 1984, Salif moved to France and started a solo career and his first solo album, the outstanding « Soro » created a buzz among music fans. The album is seen as innovating because of the, for African music of that decade, particularly high production standards (the album has been produced by François Bréant), and because of the unique mix of beautifully sung African melodies and modern western (electronic) instrumentation. Following albums share the same modernity but lack more and more the African feel. After the turn of the millennium, Salif went back to Bamako where he recorded a semi-acoustic album « Moffou », which was again a benchmark. He created a cultural centre with a club, and added to this a recording studio, all baptised Moffou. Later albums such as « M’bemba » and « La différence » share the same mix between melodic compositions, acoustic instruments and Salif's soaring voice.

If it was for tradition, we wouldn't have heard this voice. Born into a noble family, said to be a direct descendant from the Keita dynasty (ruling the Mali empire from the 12th till the early 17th century), Salif had no right to sing in public. In addition, being an albino, which is seen as a sign of bad luck in malinké culture, he was often alone, and discriminated and so he sought relieve in playing on his guitar. From his early successes, such as « Mandjou » (1978), for which Guinean president Sekou Touré granted him a degree of National Order of Guinea, to collaborations with Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Carlos Santana and others, we can only be thankful for it that this tradition has not been respected.

Born: 25 August, 1949, in Djoliba (40km South of Bamako, on the Niger River)
Style: Mandingo music

Salif Keita
Salif Keita

Title Year Label Remarks
Talé 2012 Emarcy / Universal Music
La différence 2009 Universal/Emarcy Benefits of the album are for the SOS Albinos foundation
20th Century Masters 2007 Universal Music The Millennium Collection
M’Bemba 2005 Universal Music/Emarcy
Remixes from Moffou 2004 Universal Music France
The Best of the Early Years 2002 Wrasse Records WRASS 083
Moffou 2002 Universal Music France 016 906-2
Golden Voice - Best of Salif Keita 2001 Wrasse Records WRASS 059 2CD
Papa 1999 Metro Blue/ Capitol Records 499070-2
Sosie 1997 MS Verdenshjørnet DKMS 9600 French "chansons"
Folon 1995 Mango CDIM 1108
69-80 1994 Sonodisc CD 74646 Sampler of 1969-80 recordings
The Mansa of Mali...A Retrospective 1994 Mango 20849-2 Sampler of 1987-93 recordings plus 1978 Mandjou
L'Enfant Lion 1993 Island O.S.T. of l'Enfant Lion, a film made by Patrick Grandperret
Amen 1991 Mango 261694
Ko-Yan 1989 Island 259850
Soro 1987 Island
Albums with Manfila Kanté:
Salif Keïta & Kanté Manfila -
The Lost Album
2005 Cantos Compilation, with 3 unreleased tracks composed by Kemo Kouyaté
Dans l'authenticité, Vol.2 1979 Badmos BLP 5032
Dans l'authenticité, Vol.1 1979 Badmos BLP 5031
With the Ambassadeurs Internationaux:
Tounkan / Mana Mani 2010 Universal Music/Emarcy 2CD compilation
Mandjou / Seydou Bathily 2010 Universal Music/Emarcy 2CD compilation
Classics Titles 2006 Cantos Compilation CD
Tounkan 1984 Celluloid CEL 6717 LP
Primpin 1983 Celluloid CEL 6640 LP
Djougouya 1983 Celluloid CEL 6635 LP
Mandjou 1979 Badmos Also on Celluloid CEL 6721 (1984)


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