Hailed as the ‘Songbird’ and ‘Golden Voice of Africa,’ Malian singer Salif Keita has been sharing his art with the world for 50 years—performing with the likes of Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul, Vernon Reid, and Esperanza Spalding. His journey, however, has not been easy. Born with albinism, Keita was banished from his village at an early age due to superstitions surrounding his skin color. Finding kindred spirits among the griots, he quickly rose to prominence as a musician, but was forced to flee the country during the civil unrest of the 1970s and eventually settled in Paris. Now, Salif Keita concludes his illustrious recording career with his 14th studio album, Un Autre Blanc (Another White).
As the title implies, the album is an ode to Keita’s struggles and triumphs as “a white man with a deep black African soul,” as well as an invitation to embrace and celebrate our many differences. Contributing to the album is an international cast of musicians. Beninoise singer Angélique Kidjo and Parisian rapper and Afro-trap artist MHD join Keita on “Itarafo,” bringing a younger generation into the mix. Another rising star, Nigerian singer Yemi Alade, brings a touch of Afropop to “Diawara Fa.” Ladysmith Black Mambazo is featured on “Gnamale,” which contrasts more traditional choral sections with Keita’s Auto-tune vocal effects. Closing out the album is a collab with Ivorian reggae singer Alpha Blondy on the upbeat praise track, “Mansu Fo La.”
With Un Autre Blanc, Salif Keita offers a pan-African project with a contemporary flare that speaks to social justice and elevates awareness of the persecution of Africans with albinism. He has gifted fans with ten memorable tracks that are sure to elevate their spirits, while crying out for a world where all are accepted.
Reviewed by Brenda Nelson-Strauss