Consumer Guide Album
Salif Keita: Papa [Metro Blue, 1999]
This Vernon Reid coproduction is beyond fusion, crossover, world music, and the rest. The master guitarist is pure polyglot, comfortable anywhere from AOR to funk to harmolodic to aleatory, and after two decades of knocking on Euro-America's door, the master singer is at home in the white world even if he never found the fortune he sought there. So the straightforward rhythms mesh imperceptibly with the traditional instruments Keita is forever rediscovering, and though it's not clear from the credits whether such Bamako big men as Toumani Diabate (kora) and Ousmane Kouyate (guitar) ever occupied the same room as such New York delegates as John Medeski (organ) and Henry Schroy (essential on bass), their spiritual confluence is in the grooves. Above it all Keita soars gravely in Bambara and sometimes English, his sand-blasted yearning finally kept in focus by a production that knows the difference between embellishing and bedizening. Almost as much an outsider in Mali and Senegal as in France or the U.S., he's finally arrived at a style that's indigenous everywhere. Which is what he always wanted.