Although usually labelled as an Afro-Pop artist Salif Keita’s finest work is unmistakably steeped in the Mandika tradition of his native Mali. Born an albino, he was cast out by his family, ostracized by his community, and forced to eventually flee to Cote d’Ivoire. Since then he has lived in Europe and Mali, and built a legacy of wonderful music that has reached out to audiences around the globe.
In 2011 Keita met up with producer / DJ Philippe Cohen-Solal, who gained widespread acclaim with The Gotan Project. Together they planned to breathe new life and new energy into Salif’s instantly recognizable combination of traditional and modern sounds, steering his music firmly towards the dance floor. The result is Talé – 11 infectious, enlivening songs that take Salif’s Keita’s music a little further than it’s ever been before.
As ever, the album is built around Salif Keita’s incredible vocal performances, supplemented by an impressive array of backing musicians. African sounds, traditional and contemporary, are provided by local musicians Cissoko Aboussi (n’goni), Mamane Diabaté (balafon) and Prince (calabash). Added colour and depth comes from Bumcello’s Cyril Atef (drums, percussion); Hagar Ben Ari, bassist with The Dap Kings and Parisian polymath Christophe Chassol’s string arrangements.
The opener, Da, is one of the tracks on the album that offer a sound and rhythm Keita fans will find familiar. The more energetic, but equally familiar and enjoyable, Yalla falls within this broad spectrum, in a more lively dance floor number, as does the title track, Talé – with disco strings and soul vocals.
Á Demain will, initially, sound familiar too, but there are new and refreshing treats in store. Electronics among the Bamako beats and kora flourishes add a new dimension. This is immediately followed by a remix (Apres Demain)in which Manu Dibango’s pace-shifting sax explorations inject a trance-like feel. It’s clear that we can take Salif at his word when he asserted ‘this time I really wanted to take the plunge’.
Roots Manuva’s chant gives the rock-steady C’est Bon, C’est Bon an unexpected opening. Madinke backing, dub overtones and Salif’s voice smiling at you through the headphones make for an irresistible dance track.
These new approaches are undoubtedly down to Solal’s production and stretch as far as sampling the B52s in Samfi.
Solal is one of the many contributors to the album who have helped Salif Keita in his quest to blow some dust from his own musical boundaries. An equally unexpected co-conspirator is Bobby McFerrin, whose rich bassy tones in Simby contrast effectively with Salif’s tenor, but also seem to encourage him to explore the lower ranges. In Tassi Pity Cabrera on piano and Frank Rubio on bass soothe in a delightful Cuban jazz accent, while Natty is an unashamedly poppy delight, with the sweet voice of Salif’s youngest daughter, Natty Keita to charm the listener.
Chérie S’én Va features an accomplished, engaging vocal and bass performance from Esperanza Spalding to close the album.
Salif Keita’s ethereal tenor voice, so reminiscent of the great Kasse Mady Diabaté, embodies the Griot tradition that inspires him. Throughout Talé he sings with his usual passion, and with help of Solal and his other collaborators has produced a world music album that rejoices in a global sound. Sit back and revel in Talé, but just try and sit still, I dare you!
Review by Neil NcFadyen
Talé is released on Monday 11th February 2013
05: ROUEN (FR, 76), Le 106
06: PARIS (FR, 75), OLYMPIA
07: LUXEMBOURG (LUX), Atelier
10: AMSTERDAM (NL), Paradiso
13: LONDON (UK), Royal Festival Hall
16: MARNE LA VALLÉE (FR, 94), La Ferme du Buisson.
02: STOCKHOLM (SWE), Concert Hall
03: GOTHENBURG (SWE), Concert Hall
10: ADELAIDE (AUS), WOMAD Festival
12: SINGAPORE (SGP), Mosaic Festival
16: NEW PLYMOUTH (NZL), WOMAD Festival.
07: ANNEMASSE (FR, 74), Chateau Rouge
08 : SIX-FOURS (FR, 83), Espace Culturel
11 : STAVANGER (NOR), Mai Jazz Festival.