If you are interested African music, you can’t ignore Salif Keita, the golden voice of Africa. Being called perhaps the greatest talent Africa has ever produced, he is the idol of any young musician on the continent.
Salif was born in 1949 in Mali. He is a direct descendant of Sunjata Keita, the founder of the Mali Empire in the 13th century. But despite this royal ancestry, he comes from a poor farmers family. His early life was anything but easy:
Salif was born with a genetic condition called albinism. He is one of the many albino black people in Africa, who suffer from the discrimination and stigmatization that goes along with this “curse”. Although he wasn’t killed like many other albino children, he was expelled from school and became a social outcast.
Doomed to live in isolation and poverty, Salif decided that his only chance to survive was to make music.
In the Mande society however, music making is strictly reserved to the caste of griots. For a member of the noble caste to persue a “lower-class” singing career was simply unthinkable: His family now definitely turned against him.
Still determined, young Salif went to Mali’s capital city Bamako, where he sang in bars and slept in the streets. At the age of 16, he became the lead singer of the legendary “Rail Band du Mali”. This was his first step towards an amazing career.
Soon, Salif left Mali and finally found happiness and great success in Europe. Now, many years later, he is at peace with his past. He recently moved back to Mali where he takes care of his people through his many projects.