August 24, 2014


Salif Keita, Hertme July 6, 2014 (photo: Ineke Hardeman)
I was listening to some recordings of the performance of Les Ambassadeurs at the Afrika Festival in Hertme. I can't say I was very disappointed about missing that particular concert. I have never been a great fan of Salif Keita's European oeuvre, but it struck me that the gap between the recordings which made him famous in Africa and the almost parody in Hertme was getting too great.

So this short post is really about reinforcing my belief in Salif.

Stern's have recently released a compilation of tracks by Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako. Despite the fact that it adds little to what has been released before (notably on the two lp's on Sonafric), it is a pleasant release. It shows respect for the artists, which has been missing in many of the earlier re-releases. And it is just good to have these tracks together on two CD's.

The album I would like to share is from the beginning of the Abidjan 'episode' of Les Ambassadeurs. In 1979, a year after the release of "Mandjou", Salif and Manfila recorded two lp's, which nowadays would be labelled as "unplugged". I.e. the music is mainly acoustic. I have always thought that these were albums were inspired by the Épopée du Mandingue series released six years earlier on the Guinean Syliphone label. Salif himself has declared many times that he was a great admirer of Sory Kandia Kouyaté. This he already demonstrated on the albums with Les Ambassadeurs du Motel, by the choice of songs like "N'na", directly borrowed from Sory Kandia.
Salif lacks the 'belcanto' (and - luckily for him - the pompousness) of Sory Kandia, but adds a touch of street-wise popularity which his example lacked.

I love this album, and I love Salif Keita for making this album into a classic. In it Salif shows many shades (even more than 50...) of his vocal range. But I must add that it takes many hearings for the beauty of these songs to really open up. The expressiveness of "Djandjon" is balanced by the almost painful shyness of "Finzamba". What is lacking from the present-day Salif is best demonstrated in the last song "Wara-Mana": the intense, deep felt passion of his singing.

Please forgive the quality of the record.

BLP 5013 -- plus flac (until Oct 1!).


jan duinkerken said...

Great !!!!
Thank you very much!
Also thanks for the flac.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I've been pretty uninterested in Keita's later albums, as well. I'm sure they go over big with in Parisian cocktail lounges, however.

FrancoPepeKalle said...

What is the difference between Salif then and Salif now? What would you guys say?

Sun Ira said...

Always good to hear your thoughts and your voice. Thanks. I saw Salif at Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley a while back with the Parisian focus of synths and Linn drums. Not much there for me and I wouldn't make an effort to see another show like it. I understand why African artists would pursue fame and success that way, but it doesn't mean I have to participate in the process.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for anybody else, but his arrangements have what I'd call a generic Afropop production sound these days--and the music is further from his roots, more as though his audience was the Parisian upscale set. This doesn't make the music wrong, and all luck to him: but it means it does next to nothing for me.

Ikon Afrik said...

Thank you for this wonderful record, it's good to see you back too!

Anonymous said...

Good to have you back. Thank you for the music.

Bert B. said...

foto is van Ineke Hardeman

WrldServ said...

@Bert: Ahh... dank voor de correctie!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Stefan,

Nice to have you back.