WORLD-renowned afro-pop singer and songwriter, Salif Keita, rocked East London for the first time on Saturday night with his distinct fusion of West African, Islamic and world music.
Dubbed the golden voice of Mali, Keita who has enjoyed more than two decades as a popular fixture on international festival and concert stages, said he knew what South Africans loved when it came to live music.
“They love to dance. I will make them dance,” he said, adding that he was thrilled to be in East London.
Keita’s cross-cultural approach to music extends to his use of traditional African instruments such as balafons, djembes and koras in addition to guitar, organ and saxophone.
“The guitar is my first love. I play it every day.”
Keita, who is no stranger to South Africa, said before the show he was looking forward to his debut in front of an Eastern Cape audience.
He said his music was inspired by everyday life and its challenges and beauty.
“My music comes from the bottom of my heart, I hope the audience will connect with it,” he said.
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 become a musician.
He was cast out by his family and community for being born with albinism which is believed to be a supposed harbinger of bad luck.
Keita rose above these early setbacks to pursue his dream of making music.
After fleeing political unrest in Mali in the 1970s, he settled in Côte d’Ivoire before moving to Paris to reach a broader audience.
His 2009 album, La Différence, emphasised that “otherness” was something to be embraced and celebrated, not feared.
In 2010, Keita was honoured with a best world music album award in France.
Today, he continues to fly the musical and cultural flag as an ambassador for Malian music.
While he has been celebrated for his music and live performances, of equal importance are Keita’s tireless efforts to campaign for the acceptance of albinos worldwide .
Keita founded The Salif Keita Global Foundation in 2005 to raise awareness and money for healthcare and educational services for the care and integration of a lbinos.
He performed alongside artists such as Zahara, Mi Casa, Vusi Mahlasela, Zakes Bantwini and Simphiwe Dana. — firstname.lastname@example.org