In the spring of 1988, I travelled to Paris with TV journalist Robin Denselow and director James Marsh (Man on Wire, The Theory of Everything and Mercy) to make a short film about the growing popularity of African music in the capital. One of the musicians we met was Salif Keita whose album 'Soro' had just been released and which Robin Denselow described as, "a mix of synthesizers, subtle rhythms, brass and chanting African choruses, all topped up with one of the greatest soul voices to be heard anywhere in the world." Salif defined for us the global importance of African music using the image of a tree: “The roots are African music; the tree trunk is jazz and the branches and the leaves are funk, reggae, hip-hop and other modern styles.” Born in 1949 in the village of Djoliba some fifty miles from the Malian capital, Bamako, Salif was an albino child who was bound to face the superstition and prejudice then associated with such a condition in Africa. This has served to strengthen his hope for a world of mutual understanding and multi-culturalism.
The Salif Keita Global Foundation (www.salifkeita.us) works to achieve fair treatment and social integration for persons with albinism. Salif's niece, Nantenin Keita, whose photograph appears on his 1995 album ‘Folon’ (see video above), won the gold medal for the 400 metres at the Paralympic games in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
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