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World - Released January 1, 2009 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

Distinctions 4F de Télérama - Victoire de la musique - The Qobuz Ideal Discography
Salif Keita turned 60 in 2009, which was also the year in which the veteran Malian singer recorded most of La Différence (although parts of the album were recorded in 2008). At that age, Keita had nothing left to prove; he had long since established himself as a major figure in Mali's Afro-pop scene. But his desire to excel remained, and he is in fine form throughout La Différence. In contrast to all the keyboards and synthesizers he used back in the 1980s, La Différence has a largely acoustic outlook -- not exclusively acoustic, but largely acoustic. Although some electric instruments are used (including electric guitar and Hammond B-3 organ), acoustic instruments are more prominent. And all those acoustic instruments -- which range from horns to oud (an Arabic lute) to upright bass -- do a lot to give this 49-minute CD its earthy, rootsy character. La Différence is not an album of traditional Malian music; this is modern Malian pop, with a strong Western influence and an obvious appreciation of American blues and R&B as well as French chanson (Mali, after all, is among the Francophone countries in sub-Saharan Africa). But the influence of traditional Malian music is also quite strong, and that East/West blend yields memorable results on haunting tracks such as "Gaffou," "Ekolo d'Amour," "San Ka Na," and "Samiga." Malian music -- both traditional Malian music and contemporary Malian pop -- has long been known for its haunting quality, which this recording most certainly has. La Différence falls shorts of essential, but even so, this excellent album paints a consistently appealing picture of Keita at 59 and 60. ~ Alex Henderson
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Africa - Released October 26, 2018 | naïve

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World - Released January 1, 2006 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

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Africa - Released October 5, 2018 | naïve

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Pop - Released January 1, 1994 | Universal-Island Records Ltd.

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World - Released November 12, 2012 | Wrasse Records

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World - Released January 1, 2004 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

Sometimes a return to basics can be the best way for an artist to move forward. For Salif Keita, that's definitely the case with Moffou. In spite of using a hefty number of musicians (17, plus six backing vocalists), the sound is very stripped-down. Even the supple electric guitar work of Djeli Moussa Kouyaté is mellow and low-key. The real beauty here is Keita's voice, carefully framed and used to maximum effect. High, almost piercing, it's a gorgeous instrument that can ride and transform a melody, whether the lulling gentleness of "Yamore" or the more upbeat -- but never frenzied -- "Iniagige." Overall, it's a record of swaying, seductive gentleness, one perfectly suited to Keita's style. After a few artistic missteps, he needs an album like this to reaffirm who he is and give a renewal to his sound. While it's strongly rooted, it's by no means strictly a Malian roots album; that's never been all of his music by any means. While ineffably West African, there's a lovely light sheen to the production that could only be European, and serves the sound well, smoothing it out but never losing the intimate flavor that's at the album's heart. Moffou reaffirms Keita's star status, and his reputation as one of the world's most glorious voices. ~ Chris Nickson
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World - Released July 5, 2019 | UMC (Universal Music Catalogue)

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Africa - Released January 1, 1986 | Badmos International

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World - Released January 1, 2004 | Universal Music Division Decca Records France

Sometimes a return to basics can be the best way for an artist to move forward. For Salif Keita, that's definitely the case with Moffou. In spite of using a hefty number of musicians (17, plus six backing vocalists), the sound is very stripped-down. Even the supple electric guitar work of Djeli Moussa Kouyaté is mellow and low-key. The real beauty here is Keita's voice, carefully framed and used to maximum effect. High, almost piercing, it's a gorgeous instrument that can ride and transform a melody, whether the lulling gentleness of "Yamore" or the more upbeat -- but never frenzied -- "Iniagige." Overall, it's a record of swaying, seductive gentleness, one perfectly suited to Keita's style. After a few artistic missteps, he needs an album like this to reaffirm who he is and give a renewal to his sound. While it's strongly rooted, it's by no means strictly a Malian roots album; that's never been all of his music by any means. While ineffably West African, there's a lovely light sheen to the production that could only be European, and serves the sound well, smoothing it out but never losing the intimate flavor that's at the album's heart. Moffou reaffirms Keita's star status, and his reputation as one of the world's most glorious voices. ~ Chris Nickson
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Africa - Released August 30, 2018 | naïve

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World - Released January 1, 1995 | Island Records (The Island Def Jam Music Group / Universal Music)

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R&B - Released January 1, 1991 | Mango

An early-'90s album from the great Salif Keita. This one pulls out all the stops to appeal to a Western audience at some level. Keita's vocals are, as always, outstanding. On top of this, though, a slew of performers make appearances and/or help out on production. Former bandmate Kante Manfila provides the primary guitar work for the album and master keyboardist Joe Zawinul both plays keyboards throughout and provides the production work. Also, balafon master Keletegui Diabate provides some outstanding work where needed. To top this, both Carlos Santana and Wayne Shorter make appearances on their respective instruments within the structure of the album. As would be expected, then, the album sounds wonderful. Zawinul's production shies away from being overly glossy, but has enough doctoring to blend the sounds together in just the right way. As far as Keita albums are concerned, this is one of the best, and as far as Afro-pop is concerned, this is also one of the best. Anyone looking to break into Afro-pop should pick this album up, as it combines the work of a true vocal master with the work of a number of musicians (Western and African) of the highest caliber to create a seamless work on the whole. ~ Adam Greenberg