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Salif Keita's Mali Masterpiece,
This review is from: Moffou (Audio CD)
If you're reading this review, you will probably know that Salif Keita is Mali's most successful and internationally recognised composer/musician/singer with a history of creating thoughtful, groundbreaking and memorable music. He is incidentally a direct descendant of Mali's royal family, had to fight traditional taboos to become a musician and is, to boot, an African albino about whom many superstitions exist throughout the continent. Though the man has had an interesting and not always easy life, through his music he has finally become an icon in Mali and won over many international listeners from complete ignorance of West-African produced music to becoming avid devotees - including this reviewer.
Great artists often produce one outstanding, seminal work in a long career that stands out from the rest. For Salif Keita, his masterpiece is "Moffou".
On "Moffou" Keita mixes traditional African "griot" musicians (like Malian guitarists Kante Manfile and Djelly Kouyate) with Paris-based jazz and classical musicians to create haunting, melodious and soulful music bursting with life and energy. Believe it, the result is something really special.
"Yamore", the opening song, is an instant hit. With an improbable but inspired French accordion driving the rhythm, Keita's soulful and arresting tenor carries the melody over a tight, joyous female chorus line with rising and falling cascades to produce a synthesis nothing short of magical. I recently played this for someone who had never heard anything by Salif Keita, and she listened to it over and again on a loop for a whole week: love at the first bar.
Keita is an excellent guitarist himself, and some of the most memorable numbers on "Moffou" like the second song "Iniagige" for example, showcase SK with nothing but his acoustic guitar and haunting vocal singing from the heart: beautiful, simple, sublime.
Strong African rhythms, powerful choral vocals, unexpected musical arrangements and first class production values characterise the album and make for a rare and memorable listening experience. Even against all Keita's history of innovative and quality musical output, I never heard anything quite like this. It's a one-off, an instant classic, far more than the sum of its diverse and excellent parts.
If you have room for only one of Keita's albums in your collection, make it this one (if you have room for two, consider "Soro" for the second). It's a corker, a musician's album, one for serious music lovers and an all-time great.