Salif Keita | La Différence

Emarcy (2010)
By TED DROZDOWSKI  |  June 16, 2010
4.0 4.0 Stars


If you don't speak Malian French, you might not grasp that this is a concept album about separatism and the triumph of the human spirit inspired by Keita's experiences growing up as an albino outcast in his native land. But that doesn't matter.

Keita's melodies and note-perfect acoustic arrangements transcend language, especially when he essays the cresting vocal phrases of the ecological protest number "San Ka Na" (supported by the angelic chirp of his female backing chorus), or begins the breezy "Seydou" with an acoustic guitar line that tumbles perfectly into the tune's bubbling intertwined kalimba and electric guitar, or insinuates his dust-and-sugar singing into the intoxicating swirl of the kora that opens "Gaffou."

The album's sound is shimmering and seamless even as he spins tales of environmental destruction and personal struggle. It's a rare performer who creates beauty from harsh reality. And for Keita, doing that isn't merely a creative abstraction — it's autobiography.

SALIF KEITA | Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville | June 17 at 8 pm | $40 | 617.876.4275 or

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