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Salif Keita, Un Autre Blanc

There are few world music stars whose luster matches that of Mali's Selif Keita. If you've not heard him, you should and you'd better hurry; Un Autre Blanc is allegedly the final record the 69-yearold Keita will make. That would surely be a personal decision, as his voice is as strong as ever. As you can hear on "WereWere," Keita is a dramatic force whose vocals cut like a knife. Or check out "Lerou Lerou," which opens with a swaying tune behind steady beats before Keita is again the storm that ruptures the calm. On "Tonton," Keita is more subdued, though the song builds in a way that's influenced by house music and would certainly be at home in a dance club. The Afro Pop master is magical on "Gnamale," which opens with kora setting the melodic structure for spirited guest performance group singing from Lady Smith Black Mambazo. This one goes back and forth between soft (Ladysmith) and hard (Keita). What a record! If you hear another other worldly female vocals soaring Keita's female response singers, it belongs to still another Afro Pop idol: Angelique Kidjo. The record is dedicated to the albino rights movement. (I'll bet you didn't know that the United Nations recognizes June 13 at Albinism Awareness Day.) If anyone needs another reminder of the idiocy of racism, in West Africa, those born with light skin or are stricken with albinism face horrendous discrimination. You can think about this, but you really should appreciate Keita now. He is truly a global treasure. ★★★★