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Salif Keita

One of the major voices in Mali’s music culture, Salif Keita is known as the “golden voice of Africa.” Born in Djoliba, Mali in 1949, Keita is a prince of the Keita royal family. He was born with albinism and subsequently ostracized by his family, who saw the condition as an omen of back luck. He left his village in 1967 and went to the capital city, Bamako. In 1970 he joined the house band for the Buffet Hotel, the Rail Band, which was sponsored by the government’s Ministry of Information and railway administration. He led the outfit until conflicts with Mory Kanté resulted in him joining the rival Les Ambassadeurs in 1973. He relocated to the Ivory Coast amid political issues in Mali, renamed his group Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux, and became internationally acclaimed. In 1977 he was awarded the National Order of Guinea from the then-president, Ahmed Sékou Touré. He relocated to Paris in 1984 in an effort to pursue a solo career and quickly became one of the best-known West African stars. He returned to Mali and his first album upon returning, 2002’s Mouffou, was considered one of his best in years. The style of Afro-Latin jazz his various groups popularized resulted in Keita working with many American and European jazz and rock musicians through his career, including Wayne Shorter and Carlos Santana. His 2009 album, La Difference, was dedicated to the struggles of the global albino community.