Salif Keita, Royal Festival Hall, London
Thursday 14 February 2013
Salif Keita found fame with the Rail Band of Bamako in the late 1960s, then with the Ambassadeurs. Both revelled in combining Afro-Cuban and native elements, with their classic line-up of electric guitar, balafon, kora and brass.
In 1977 he left Mali for Abidjan, then settled in Paris, and in 1987 released the electro-Afropop smash that was Soro. Since then he’s delivered fusion albums alongside more rootsy, acoustic sets, such as 2009’s acclaimed La Difference - toured as part of the African Soul Rebels the following year - while his new album, Talé, has had a mixed reception.
At the Royal Festival Hall, The Golden Voice led a five-piece band including ngoni player Harouna Samake, Prince on calabash and Africa Express member Morike Keita, AKA DJ Mo on a raised matt-black dias whose rack of keyboards and laptops fills the centre and dominates the band’s sound. Salif Keita took centre stage, falling to his knees at first, to receive his audience, before walking into a bracing vocal on the late 1970s vintage of Mandjou, lit from behind in a dramatic chiaroscuro by energetically deployed stage lighting.
It’s a dense ensemble music, the swift rhythms shifting and molassing under Keita’s remarkable voice. On "Le Difference", he unleashes a lion of a vocal, with a power that reaches to the back of the house. Then he changes pace, and makes an appeal to the audience - not for peace in Mali or anything like that, but for us all to sing Happy Birthday to him. “Thank you for coming," he cries. “Some people know about me but I don’t know my birthday – the month, the day, or the year. So I choose today as my birthday.”
The audience is his after that, and through the likes of "Yamore" from Grammy-nominated 2002 album Moffou, to the best cuts from the new album - the synth earworm that is Talé, and "Samfi", on which he steps up to deliver a great vocal – there is much to love, even if the nuances of his live band’s sound is sometimes flattened by the squelch of DJ Mo’s synths and programmed beats.
By the end, he’s pulling up audience members to become stage dancers, the house is on its feet, the talking drum is out, and if it may not be the best Salif Keita concert, that Golden Voice carries a wider spectrum of emotions that all the rest. He’s a global musical traveller, a veteran with Malian roots and though his experiments do not always prosper, that voice always hits home.
There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turningTV
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 iOS 8 apps and features: eight iPhone settings you need to look at after you install the update
- 2 Kim Kardashian 'nude photos' leaked on 4chan weeks after Jennifer Lawrence scandal
- 3 'F*ck it, I quit': KTVA reporter Charlo Greene quits live on air in spectacular fashion
- 4 Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
- 5 Hitler’s former food taster reveals the horrors of the Wolf’s Lair
Cilla, episode 2, ITV, review: Sheridan Smith continues to shine as the young singer
Downton Abbey series 5, episode 1, ITV, review: There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning
Foo Fighters: Live 2015 tour dates announced for Sonic Highways
Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned PR disaster
Top Gear to launch in France after Jeremy Clarkson banned from driving on roads
Scotland could still declare independence – even without referendum, says Alex Salmond
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Hilary Mantel 'should be investigated by police' over Margaret Thatcher assassination story, says Lord Bell
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Plebgate MP Andrew Mitchell called officer a 'little s**t', claim court documents 'exposing ex-Chief Whip's 'record of abusing police'
Archbishop of Canterbury admits doubts about existence of God