Salif Keita hasn't shied away from using his pop-legend status to confront social issues in the past.
As a Malian nobleman he has acted in defiance of traditional hierarchies (music is a profession meant for lower classes) and as an albino his songs like La Difference have vocalised ongoing injustices. So given the crisis escalating in Mali, Friday's concert seemed markedly like business-as-usual from the 63-year-old. "There's a war going on," he said briefly, halfway through his set, "because everyone wants a bit of the money. Anyway, God bless you all." Then it was back to the show routine.
Should we expect more from Mali's most celebrated cultural export? Perhaps not. His job here was to live up to a musical legacy which, in the end, he did. But it was a good thing he and his band played four lengthy encores, because it wasn't until the end of his official set that energy levels really picked up at the Old Fruitmarket. A tepid start to the night had seen Keita mainly hand over proceedings to his well-drilled band, which included two traditional drummers, a laptop DJ, a back-up singer (her dancing made more impact than her singing) and a kamele n'goni, the long-necked West African lute. After a while the infectious riffs of songs such as Yambo and the anthemic Yamore got the audience moving; Keita's voice, meanwhile, sounded as searching, grainy and hard-hitting as ever, but sometimes there was so much production around it that it got lost in the mix.
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