Too many who write about African music or culture, are people who parachute into Africa from western Europe or north America for a fortnight or a season with the calculated aim of gaining media fame and a title as "expert" after they have "studied" us. Many of these "experts" employ clever phrases and Phd vocabularies and mask shallow knowledge with this facade. Professor Chérif Keita; the author of OUTCAST TO AMBASSADOR; THE MUSICAL ODYSSEY OF SALIF KEITA, is the best person to have written this book about the Malian musician; Salif Keita. As a professor of literature; he is well aware of what it takes to write a gripping narrative. And he proved himself more than up to the task. But this book posed a special challenge, I thought, with the inclusion of esoteric, ethnographic details on the culture of the dièli and the donso interwoven into the storyline. Professor Keita is well up to the challenge and, this reader found that the flow of the narrative was not hindered in the least. Moreover, these details were germane to the story in explaining the singers life challenges and the motives behind his career decisions. Professor Chérif Keita & Salif Keita have been friends since they were both pre-teens. And they have been friends for more than five decades. As such, it is only someone like Professor Keita who could write about Salif with such intimate knowledge. It is only someone like him who could draw such an insightful psychological picture of the singer. Professor Keita and Salif Keita belong to the same culture. They are both from Mandé and share language, religion and scores of enumerable cultural traditions together. This very fact stamps an imprimatur of authenticity to the work. This reader finished the book in 3 days and highly recommends it. 5 stars.
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