Presented by Culturesfrance and the Embassy of France in association with AON Zimbabwe, Malian Keita, the internationally recognised singer, songwriter and master of West African rhythms is credited as being one of the original founders of the Afro-pop genre. His soaring vocals, emotionally charged songs and unforgettable live performances have made him an African musical legend.
Descended from Sunjata Keita who founded the Mali Empire in 1240, he grew up, one of a family of 13 children, in humble surroundings in Djoliba outside the Malian capital Bamako. His family opposed his aspirations to becoming a singer, for reasons of tradition. His noble ancestry precluded a singing career, and his decision nonetheless to become a musician broke an important Malian taboo by which only the lowly jeli “under-class” of people in Mali are supposed to make a living from music.
In 1970 aged 18, Keita moved into the capital, working as a street musician and playing in bars. The first group he sang with was the Rail Band, a state-sponsored ensemble based at a Bamako railway station hotel and a launching pad for the careers of numerous West African musicians.
Keita has enjoyed a high profile international music carer ever since and continues to tour all over the world. Residing in Mali, he spends much time in Paris and tours with a mixed Malian and American ensemble.