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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 that 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 "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. [This edition features a bonus remix of "Calculer."]

Customer Reviews

Salif Keita is the beat of my heart...

This album is Salif Keita at his best. Be sure to check out "Tu Vas Manquer" and "Dery."

special music

salif keita is one of those rare musicians who can deeply strike a chord in people's heart. it's unmistakenly african and yet magically universal. possibly one of africa's greatest musicians.

Powerful music goes to the heart

I just discovered this album and I cannot stop playing it. It transcends much of the music you hear today and strikes you viscerally in your core. When you get to Yambo, no matter where you are or what you are doing, you will find yourself moving. And, Tu vas me manquer is pure and sultry at once. I would put Salif Keita in a category all his own and that would be approaching the sublime.


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...
Full Bio
M'Bemba, Salif Keita
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Customer Ratings

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