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The ‘Golden Voice of Africa’ goes back on tour with a stop in Santa Cruz

Salif Keita 2022 Tour

Update: This show has been canceled.

Malian musician Salif Keita, the “Golden Voice of Africa,” is one of the most beloved artists in Africa, and the news of his retirement in 2018 invaded social networks across the continent when it was announced. Also known as the “Mansa of Mali,” Keita has come out of his self-imposed break and is on tour this summer. He will perform at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz on Saturday, September 10.

“Composing songs is part of me, but making a record takes three to four years and it’s tiring,” the artist said at the time of his retirement, shortly after the release of his final album. “I am no longer ready to catch planes, buses, and taxis. I am gaining in age and it is a good time to take stock of my career."

In that goodbye album, “Un Autre Blanc” (“Another White” in French), Keita sings, as he has always done, with the hope of a better tomorrow. The album features collaborations with many guest artists, like Angélique Kidjo, Ivorian reggae star Alpha Blondy, Guinean-French rapper MHD, and Nigeria’s afrobeat queen Yemi Alade.

The title of the album is in reference to Keita’s albinism. He has experienced first-hand the hardships people with albinism face on the continent. Born to the Keita royal family, descendants of the founder of the Mali Empire, his birth caused a scandal. He was even accused of having evil powers and his father rejected him at birth. As a result, Keita lived his childhood with determination. He said, “when you are different, you have to show yourself in a positive way. In my country, they kill [people with albinism], so I had to impose myself in school.”

Several years back, I had the opportunity to interview Salif Keita here in San Francisco on his very first appearance in the Bay Area. It was during the 90s worldbeat era. During our conversation, he compared African music to the baobab, an African tree with a thick trunk that bears edible, gourd-like fruits. Keita said, “the roots of many musics are African — the trunk is the gospel, blues, and jazz; the branches are R&B and soul; the leaves are Afro-Latino-Caribbean; and the fruits are calypso, salsa, reggae, soca, hip hop, and rap.” Indeed, it is a perfect analogy of African music and its influence on the music of the African diaspora.

Discover more music from the continent during AfricaMix, Saturdays from 6-8 pm.