REVIEW: Salif Keita in the Muffathalle in Munich

Salif Keita
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski


Salif Keita
(Muffathalle, Muffatwerk, Munich. 24 May 2017. Review (*) by Ralf Dombrowski)

Salif Keita had to cancel last winter's tour because of ill health. As an albino in Africa, he must indeed have different health - and also cultural - problems to deal with from his compatriots. His music is a means to help create understanding. Through it he can cast aside the barriers of superstition, insecurity, and exclusion. Over the past few decades he has achieved results in building public awareness of the mistreatment and ostracising of albinos. But above all he has developed as a pivotal figure in the world of African music, and has built interest in it and awareness of it through his live performances.
Mamadou Diabaté (centre)
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

At the moment, Keita is experimenting with the combination of musical styles, and is keeping a balance between the African tradition and modern electronics. There is no bass in his band; what he does have is electronic sounds and subtly integrated loops from a laptop. Balafon and n’goni have both disappeared from the line-up, leaving a kora, along with the percussion, as the only African instrument.

The kora-payer is Mamadou Diabaté, one of the reigning monarchs of the harp-like instrument. In the Muffathalle, his instrumental sequence took the listener off into the polyrhythmic-melodic subtleties of this particular cosmos. And they were fascinating excursions: everything from bubblingly fluid cascades of notes to violent whipcracks. Apart from that, many elements are coinciding in this music: rocky elements with Afro-Funk roots, a bit of afro-beat, cycled patterns which took us right back to Keita's early days with Les Ambassadeurs, dancing episodes, volleys from the djembe....

And running right through it is Keita's singing: throaty, evocative, and in its more intense moments, completely hypnotic. Towards the end of the almost one and a half hour single set, dancers from the audience were allowed onto the stage, to join in the Afro-Party-hang. This is the moment when Salif Keita slowly and discreetly disappears from the stage and lets his musicians play on without him. Thank you and goodnight Munich - the master has moved on.

The conclusion of the Salif Keita show in the Muffathalle
Photo credit: Ralf Dombrowski

(*) LINK: Ralf Dombrowski's original German review appeared in the Munich broadsheet - the Süddeutsche Zeitung

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