City Paper is not for tourists
Malian singer Salif Keita’s life did not begin easily. Keita has albinism; his family ostracized him for a time for his skin color, and he was teased by other kids. He thus spent much of his childhood singing alone in his family’s maize fields and listening to griots chant. When, at age 18, he announced his plans to become a singer, his father disowned him. Because the members of the Keita family are direct descendants of the founder of the Malian Empire, they were thought too high-class to pursue a career in music. Nevertheless, Keita moved to Bamako in 1967 and joined the Rail Band, whose members were wowed by his high-pitched singing on a street corner. In subsequent decades, Keita has rocked with Malian groups, rappers, jazz musicians, and Carlos Santana. For his current tour, the now-65-year-old Keita performs with a six-piece group that will revisit his catalogue using traditional Malian stringed instruments as well as guitar and percussion. Keita’s vibrato-filled vocals, a thing of wonder still, will soar, as he varies his pitch and bends vowels, demonstrating how this once mistreated child became “the Golden Voice of Africa.” Salif Keita performs at 7 p.m. at Lisner Auditorium, 730 21st St. NW. $45–$85. (202) 994-6800. lisner.org.