Salif Keita - Basic Biography:
Salif Keita was born on August 25, 1949 in Djoliba, Mali. Salif Keita is a direct descendant of Sunjata Keita, who founded the Malian Empire in 1240, however, because he was born with albinism, a sign of extreme bad luck in Mandinka culture, he was ostracized by his family and left home as a teenager. He soon joined up with the Super Rail Band de Bamako, a government-sponsored Afro-pop orchestra, and garnered national acclaim. His choice to become a musician was taboo, as members of the royal caste are forbidden from becoming musicians, a profession generally reserved for the lower jeli (griot) caste.
After performing in the Super Rail Band for six years, Salif Keita left to join the rival band, Les Ambassadeurs, with whom he fled Mali in the mid-1970s to escape political unrest. They changed their name to Les Ambassadeurs Internationaux while living in Cote d'Ivoire, and proceeded to gain international recognition. In 1984, Keita left the group and moved to Paris to embark on a successful solo career.
Salif Keita moved home to Mali in 2001, and has subsequently released three albums, including 2010's critically acclaimed La Difference, an album which explores the issues faced by people with albinism and other potential societal outcasts. Keita also started a foundation, the Salif Keita Global Foundation, which advocates for the rights (and basic safety) of Albinos, particularly in Africa, where they are often targets for human sacrifice. The organization is headed by his wife, Malian-American Coumba Makalou.