Salif Keita

Genres: Blues Foreign Films World Music
Decades Active: 1980s 1990s 2000s

Biography

25 August 1949, Djoliba, Mali. Born into one of Mali’s most distinguished families, albino vocalist/composer Keita can trace his descent directly back to Soundjata Keita, who founded the Mali empire in 1240. He originally wished to become a teacher, but unemployment at the time was high, so he switched to music. In the west, musicians are often thought of as dissolute and irresponsible; in Mali, for the son of a royal family to go into a job that was traditionally the preserve of lower castes was virtually unthinkable. Keita’s decision caused a storm - he was dismissed from school, and formed a trio with his brother, playing in Bamako nightclubs. In 1970, he was invited to join the Rail Band, playing in the buffet of the Station Hotel in Bamako. Three years later he switched to the Rail Band’s main rivals, Les Ambassadeurs, who were playing what he considered to be a more modern music, with a greater range of outside influences. With the help of...

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