SO LONG

Salif Keita to bow out with fi­nal al­bum

The Sunday Independent - - Front Page - AMANDA MALIBA @Aman­daMal­iba

SALIF KEITA, dubbed the Golden Voice of Africa and an Afropop mae­stro, will re­lease his very last al­bum at the end of Oc­to­ber, in a fi­nal bow to an in­dus­try he has served faith­fully for al­most 50 years.

The last al­bum will be his way of leav­ing a legacy through the songs and col­lab­o­ra­tions he has cho­sen for it.

It will fea­ture artists he has very close re­la­tion­ships with, such as Yemi Alade, Grammy Award-win­ning Beni­nese singer Angélique Kidjo and young rap­per Ab­dul Al Ma­lik from Paris, among oth­ers.

Salif, who will turn 70 next year, spent some time dur­ing the in­ter­view re­flect­ing on al­binism, the time he spent in the mu­sic in­dus­try mak­ing mu­sic and touch­ing lives, say­ing it has been as ben­e­fi­cial for him as it has been for his fans.

In­de­pen­dent Me­dia caught up with the Malian in Swazi­land, where he was per­form­ing at the MTN Bush­fire Fes­ti­val, shar­ing a plat­form with the likes of Grammy Award win­ners Lady­smith Black Mam­bazo and Nige­rian Afropop singer and song­writer Yemi Alade in the Africa

Trib­ute to eSwa­tini per­for­mance. Re­flect­ing on his ca­reer, he says: “There are two things I take with me from my ca­reer.

“Although it might not have been the ini­tial in­ten­tion, the last 49 years have al­lowed me to over­come my hand­i­cap as an al­bino.

“So much so that I al­most for­got I have the hand­i­cap, and that has been a very im­por­tant tool for me.”

He’s had to over­come be­ing looked down on and seen as a bad omen by Malians be­cause of his ge­netic dis­or­der, but his ca­reer helped him es­tab­lish an in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nised foun­da­tion, The Salif Keita Global Foun­da­tion.

The foun­da­tion sup­ports those sub­jected to the same so­ci­etal ex­clu­sion and stigma at­tached to al­binism.

“Through my foun­da­tion, I have been able to help other al­bi­nos. Not only in my home in Mali, but all over Africa and in the US as well.

“Through this foun­da­tion, I have also been able to pro­vide as­sis­tance to many al­bi­nos all over the con­ti­nent with ba­sics that vary from sunscreen lo­tion, sun­glasses and clothes to cover up from the sun.

“That is the pow­er­ful role that mu­sic has played in my life that no one can take away.

“Be­ing able to reach peo­ple and places that oth­er­wise may have been im­pos­si­ble is pow­er­ful.

“My ul­ti­mate goal now, a goal I am work­ing to­wards with all my might, is rais­ing funds to build a hospi­tal that will specif­i­cally tend to the needs of al­bi­nos,” he says.

Salif says his mu­si­cal gift has also helped unite the world, open­ing up chan­nels of ac­cep­tance for peo­ple liv­ing with al­binism and uniting Africa as a whole.

“That I’ve been invited to vir­tu­ally ev­ery cor­ner of the con­ti­nent shows that, even though it might not have been the in­ten­tion, those were the re­sults of my mu­sic over the years.

“For ex­am­ple, not a lot of peo­ple go to Guinea-Bis­sau, but we were there two weeks ago to per­form two shows.

“I’ve been to many, many African coun­tries, show­ing that my mu­sic has had a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact right across the con­ti­nent.”

The de­ci­sion to take the “needed break”, as he puts it, will give him the op­por­tu­nity to spend time with his fam­ily.

“I do think, with all that I’ve achieved in the in­dus­try, it’s a good time to say good­bye to this chap­ter of my life.

“I’ve been tour­ing non-stop for 50 years and maybe now it’s time to en­joy my life with my fam­ily. My chil­dren and grand­chil­dren will surely ap­pre­ci­ate spend­ing time with me.”

Of course, car­ry­ing the ti­tle of Golden Voice of Africa came with a lot of pres­sure to de­liver. “With such a ti­tle, one had to con­tin­u­ously live up to the ex­pec­ta­tions. I use my voice the only way I know how – to sing.

“Most im­por­tantly, I have to keep mak­ing mu­sic from my heart and it is the real ve­hi­cle for the love I have in my heart.

“Then the voice be­comes the car­rier to ex­press it,” he says.

PIC­TURE: LUC GNAGO/REUTERS

MALIAN WITH A MIS­SION: Salif Keita has set up a foun­da­tion in his name to help peo­ple liv­ing with al­binism and is chang­ing the way the world views them.

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