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Review – Salif Keita

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, March 31 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Review – Salif Keita at The Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011

– review and photos by Rebecca Apostoli

Kutapira, a five-piece marimba ensemble who got their start at the Britannia Community Center world music program in Vancouver, opened the Salif Keita show April 2. Training under local musicians Jack Duncan and Myles Bigelow, these energetic young men displayed world-class chops with a diverse spectrum of percussion genres including Latin/Caribbean, Cuban, African and Portuguese.

Kutapira Salif Kutapira at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photoKeita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Kutapira at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Blending modern elements of breakbeat and hip hop into their original compositions resulted in a genre-defying mash-up that had everyone grooving. Only a few audience members accepted their invitation to dance, but two of the members busted some moves that had everyone clapping along and thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Kutapira at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Kutapira at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Though young, Kutapira are skilled enough to switch off turns at the three marimbas, drums set and a few varieties of hand drums. They also displayed an enthusiastic and cheerful stage demeanor that charmed and engaged the audience. These guys were the unexpected highlight of the evening, perhaps even outshining the headliner in his weaker moments.

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

With his glowing white dashiki and striking albino skin, Salif Keita was impressive, nonetheless. He seemed to emanate a supernatural light and goodness from his very core. Gazing magnanimously at his adoring crowd, Keita sang beautiful original songs about love, acceptance and empathy for our fellow man in his haunting plaintive voice.

His music, based on the traditional Mandinka music of Mali, is played and arranged for contemporary instruments such as the electric guitar, bass and Western drum set. Upbeat, uplifting and thoroughly dance-able, Keita’s music also incorporates many traditional instruments such as the kora, balafon, and djembe.

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

It was easy to get caught up in the building excitement of each song, where were played by a large band of highly skilled backing musicians, including an organist, a lead guitarist, a bassist, a kora player and two backup singers. Now 62, Salif Keita did seem a little old and frail, and did not dance as much as he has in the past, but his haunting voice, empathic gaze and striking stage presence were as impressive as ever. Those lucky enough to get tickets to the show should feel grateful for witnessing such a peaceful soul and evolved performer.

While everything musically was amazing, one thing that was definitely detracted from the show was the overly uptight, aging audience members who obstinately stayed seated the entire performance and scowled at the younger crowd who chose to dance and celebrate this fantastic legend of African music. While elder audience members grumbled about “lack of respect” and “decorum”, it was actually they themselves who were disrespecting the artist by sitting there like lumps on a log. They might as well have been asleep or at home on the couch.

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

During the first song of Kutapira’s set I was getting a few snaps of the band and a woman in her early 50s asked me if I was “going to be doing that all night”. Well yes, I’m a music journalist, my job here is to document the show. Even though I was nowhere near blocking her immediate field of vision, she seemed outraged that the viewfinder on my camera was going to distract her from looking at the stage.

These kinds of people are the reason why Vancouver has a reputation as “No Fun City”. If you can’t handle standing up for 90 minutes at a show, then you shouldn’t be there. Don’t get mad at someone else because they are enjoying themselves and engaging with the music.

Overall it was a wonderful show with beautiful performances from both Kutapira and Salif Keita, but turned a bit sour by a few uptight Vancouver citizens.

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

Salif Keita at the Vogue Theatre, Vancouver, April 2 2011. Rebecca Apostoli photo

3 responses to “Review – Salif Keita

  1. 6 years ago  

    I’m disgusted at your comment “If you can’t handle standing up for 90 minutes at a show, then you shouldn’t be there.” Many people come to shows that are designated seating because they rightfully believe they will be able to enjoy a show seated. Many people, including myself, attend concerts and are not able or willing to stand to watch the show. That includes people with disabilities, the elderly, and included me when I was pregnant. Your comments smacks of discrimination against those who are less able, and it has not place in this city or this society. I thought we’d evolved from the “every many for himself” attitude.
    Even a few manners would help. It is neither good manners nor respectful of other concert goers OR the artists to come late, interrupt the show for others, and repeatedly get up and down during their show to get drinks.
    Being rude has nothing to do with having fun!

  2. 6 years ago  

    thanks for your comment kim. I am not ableist as you presumed, but simply pointing out that uptight attitudes get in the way of EVERYONE having fun. Yes, the disabled, pregnant and elderly should be given special consideration, but it doesn’t have to encroach on everyone else’s enjoyment of the experience. A smart venue manager would seat these folks in priority seating with guaranteed sight lines, which I’m assuming from your comment they did not? Were you there?
    My comments were more directed to those who bought front row tickets and assumed they had bought real estate that covered everything between their feet and the front of the stage. The space, just like the music, is for the enjoyment of everyone, not just those with money or status.

  3. 6 years ago  

    no dancing. all dancers will have their toes and feet smashed and broken, and if you think i’;m jokin’ then the hardy har hars are on yer wimpering moans. if dancing continues, knees broken. sledgehammer style. dancers who continue will next face amputated limbs. this ownership of dear front row seats requires those with passion for buckets of blood to sneer and scowl and bemoan their lot in life. african music is about the dance of life. with life in life. if you’re not willing to dance, bemoan your loss of innocence and get out of the way for the Dancers, the Poets, the Radicals. please and excuse us while we dance.

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