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In concert: Salif Keita at Lisner Auditorium

salif keitaSalif Keita had audience members dancing in the aisles at Lisner Auditorium. (All photos by Evy Mages/TWP)

By Mark Jenkins

"La Difference," Salif Keita's latest release, is the Malian performer's third album in a row to employ a low-key, mostly acoustic sound. But Keita didn't emphasize quieter material Friday night at Lisner Auditorium. He played only two quiet songs, and that may have been one more than planned:

The second ballad came when security guards ordered dancing fans out of the aisles, and Keita did a gentle tune to prompt the crowd to sit down.

salif keita

Some 90 minutes earlier, the albino singer had insisted on the opposite, stopping the music to announce that "with African music, you have to stand up." Many listeners obliged, staying on their feet for most of the nearly two-hour show. With three percussionists, Keita's nine-person band offered plenty of rhythmic motivation, as well as star turns by guitarist Djely Moussa Kouyate and n'goni player Horouna Samake. (The latter plucked as he slid across the floor or held his instrument behind his back.) The ensemble's rippling patterns buttressed Keita's phenomenal tenor, which reaches notes that are piercing yet never shrill.

Such recent songs as "La Difference" - about African mistreatment of albinos - turned livelier in concert. But the party really started with "Mandjou," one of Keita's oldest tunes and a perennial crowd-pleaser. It began the communal portion of the show, with fans hopping onstage to shimmy, wave and shower the musicians with money. Keita received the visitors graciously, greeting them with hugs, brief dances or crisp, military-style salutes. Amid this benign frenzy, even overanxious security guards couldn't spoil the mood.

salif keita

salif keita

salif keita

salif keita

By David Malitz  |  June 14, 2010; 10:15 AM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags: Salif Keita  
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