Salif Keita sings of his pride at being an albino

March 2010 -

After considerable successes in the eighties, during which he worked with famous performers such as Joe Zawinul and Grace Jones, it appears that the Malinese Afro-pop singer and song writer Salif Keita is making a comeback. The electronics that created such ambiance on his previous CDs has disappeared and M'Bemba, his next to last CD, is acoustic for the most part. He continues that path on La différence, his most recent CD. Keita recently declared that he has had enough of synthesizers and that he now wishes to be truer to his musical tradition.


Photo: Richard Dumas

The title song on La différence, in which Keita sings of his pride at being an albino, is remarkable. Keita has not had it easy. Albinos in Africa are generally viewed as pariahs. "I am a black man with white skin; it is what distinguishes me. I am a white man with black blood, and I love it." Keita views the value of traditions in nuanced terms. "Everything does not have to stay. For example, in my opinion the Mali cast system could be eliminated. I have deliberately withdrawn myself from this and am pleased to see that others are doing this as well. Younger generations in Africa are succeeding more and more in establishing a good relationship between strong family traditions and contemporary reality. But this is not an easy task - certainly not for artists."

"We live in a time in which the economy dominates politics. Artists must frequently keep their mouths shut, especially in Africa, which is why African artists so frequently flee the country. In my own country they are snubbed or closely monitored by the regime because they are rebels. They generally receive more respect abroad because they come from Africa. I am moved by young people's courage. Ultimately they will save Africa; I am convinced of this. You have to fight to achieve something. After all, manna doesn't fall from heaven."

Salif Keita performed at various sites in the Netherlands at the end of March 2010.