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M'Bemba

Salif Keita

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Album Review

The Grammy nominated West African artist, Salif Keita, whose voice The Washington Post once declared as "one other mortals can only aspire to" returned after many years to Bamako, Mali to record M'Bemba, a remarkable, multifaceted collection which beautifully blends native choirs (comprised of his foster sisters), rolling hypnotic guitars, happily dancing percussion, and such indigenous instruments as ngoni lute and kora. These evoke the memory of Keita's ancestor, Sundiata Keita, the warrior king who founded the Mandingo Empire in the 13th century. Over the course of an hour, Keita — whose globally successful 35-year career has somewhat offset the hardships he's faced in his homeland being an albino and a musician — weaves a true tapestry of all of his favorite global influences. These include rock, soul, French chanson, and Afro-Cuban rhythms, all stirred up around his deep, guttural vocals, echoing chants, the seductive, jangling guitars, and a variety of earthy grooves. On the gentler reflections, like the opening track "Bobo," and the sweet, anthemic title track (enhanced by the female chorus), there's a hauntingly beautiful sense of history mixed with struggle and, ultimately, optimism. While the album will mostly be enjoyed by fans of real-deal African music, newcomers will hopefully be inspired to begin mining Keita's rich history as both a musician and a survivor.

Biography

Born: 1949 in Djoliba, Mali

Genre: World

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Salif Keita gave up a lot to pursue his dreams of a career in music. Born to royal lineage, with ancestral roots going back to Soundjata Keita, the founder of the Malian Empire in 1240, Keita was disowned by his father after announcing his plans to play music. Keita's dreams, however, were too strong to be shattered. Moving to the capitol city of Bamako in 1967, he was soon playing in nightclubs with one of his brothers. Within two years, he was invited to join the Rail Band. A popular, government-sponsored...
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M'Bemba, Salif Keita
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