Tag Archives: salif keita

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Salif Keita – Folon

Wow. One whole year since Keita made an apperance on the Hub – last appearing here within the midst of the ebola pandemic. Where does the time go? Since Mali’s successful response to the outbreak the Health Ministry has been using its time to learn the lessons and use them to tackle other national health problems like child mortality. Impressively, the Health Ministry will focus on a pro-active and pragmatic ‘door to door’ approach to identifying symptoms. All too often people in Mali, owing to overwhelming costs of healthcare, will ignore symptoms in blind hope of recovery and will only seek medical assistance when conditions become unbearable. Tragically, by this time they are usually untreatable and a terrible rate of mortality, especially amongst children, prevails.

Are these solutions affordable for the government and its people? Proudly, Mali Development Group have been working with Malian local authorities and charities in the Yanfolila region of south-west Mali for a number of years now, providing funds for a ‘mutuelle’ healthcare provision scheme – making preventative medcine more affordable and accessible to Malian families and there at the early stages –  when they need it most. Look at any ebola outbreak map and it is easy to see that the Yanfolila region, with its proximity to worst-hit Guiena, was the most vulnerable region and had to serve as the buffer against the disease to the millions living 20km up the road in Bamako. Community health is a crucially important issue for the area, indeed the country, for humanitarian, economic and security reasons – ebola showed that a disease left to its own divices can lead to any society to completely “unravel”. Malaria for example remains a huge problem. Mali’s friends, communities, charities, and now government – its seems – acknowledge the importance of preventative action in regards to health, and have hopefully come up with a workable – and proven – plan to deliver it. This is very welcome news and hard to believe when thinking back to the oblivion facing West African countries a mere 12 months ago.


Salif Keita – Folon


Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.

To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at sam.garbett@malidg.org.uk. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.

The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.

Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Song of the Week

Salif Keita – Soyomba

Gold. Wealth, trade and fortune are interwoven into the history of all human societies. In almost every society that has had access to it, gold has become a symbol of and has facilitated prestige, opulence and power like no other material on Earth. For Mali, the bright yellow, dense, soft and malleable metal has been ever-present and remains a vitally important part of Mali’s economy today. From the hay-day of Timbuktu and the Empire that surrounded it to the stock exchanges of the modern world, it is gold that has been largely responsible for the economic successes of Mali – including since the conflict  in 2012/13. It is also – due to Mali’s dependency on its export price – a  source of continued vulnerability, as Mali’s fortunes are thus shackled to the successes and failures of the wider global economy.

Despite (or perhaps due to) mankind’s fascination with gold’s value, utility and aesthetics it can be a dangerous material and sometimes a curse for the populations that happen to live on the ground above where it is found. The mining of gold is not the safest of occupations and during any “rush” to obtain it human lives are often seen as a worthy risk for its extraction. This picture series from the BBC shows the working conditions experienced by those participating in the “boom” of Mali’s gold mines today.

Another problem with gold is that it is very, very rare for ordinary Malian’s to see any of its monetary benefits. The government taxation on the industry is deliberately low to attract foreign investment. Statements from both Oxfam and the International Monetary Fund have emphasised the failure of the government and of multinational companies  to share the exploits of an industry that represents 70% of Malian exports and an enormous 15% of the country’s GDP. To put that chunk of national expenditure into perspective, the UK spends around 8% of its GDP on the NHS and defence spending represents about 2.5%. For Mali, that 15% could go a long, long way if shared out correctly.

The pictures in the BBC article are taken of a mine close to the Mali-Guinea border, in a Malian town called Kouremale. The town lies about 40km north of the Niger river, 150km upstream from Bamako. The choice of this week’s song of the week is down to the fact that afro-pop legend Salif Keita hails from the region, which is soaked in history. Near the gold-mines of Kouremale is the archaeological site at Woyowayanko, which marks the place where the last West African emperor Samory Touré did battle with French colonists – his victory here in face of the superior French artillery solidified his reputation as  legendary military strategist. Not that this talk of 19th century Emperors and their impressive legacies would particularly phase Salif Keita; he is direct descendent of  the founder of the Malian Empire Sundiata Keita who lived some 800 years ago.

Another link, if you needed one, between this week’s track and the Empires of Mali’s past is found in Salif Keita’s popular nickname. As a result of his unique voice, artistic brilliance, and leadership on many societal issues he is proudly known as “The Golden Voice of Africa“.

Salif Keita – Soyomba


Sounds from the Sahel: Mali Track of the Week

Salif Keita – Africa

It time to celebrate as Salif Keita is coming to London’s Barbican Centre on the 8th of April. What better way to celebrate than with some afrobeat from the excellent Malian musician himself, conducted in that cheesy fashion that only afrobeat can get away with, perhaps with the exception of some 80s classics.

Salif Keita is an exceptional musician, and has already appeared on the Track of the Week once before.  Live music producers Serious have been instrumental in bringing artists like Keita to perform in Britain for years. In reference to the upcoming concert they had this to say:

“Salif Keita has been at the forefront of modern Malian music for many years. Dubbed the ‘golden voice of Africa’ (fRoots), Keita has over that time extended musical frontiers and carved out a distinctive musical voice, in which rock, funk and jazz combine with the deepest West African griot traditions.”

Contrary to the focus provided here on Salif’s excitable dance beats he is an exceptional producer of emotive, beautiful and ambient music with an fantastic use of layered vocals. As Serious continue:

“In this show Salif will be exploring a new acoustic direction, evolving from his recent shows which were geared towards a heavily-amplified sound.”

As many nights in the Barbican before it, Keita – in all likelihood – is going to produce an evening of real beauty and intimacy; something really special.

But hold that thought for one moment as here is a real African anthem if there ever was one, with a cultural collage of a music video to boot. Enjoy Salif Keita’s ‘Africa’ in all its full fun-filled glory. Happy Wednesday!


Salif Keita – Africa