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Salif Keita: ‘Mandjou’, a griot’s praise song for a president

By Léo Pajon
Posted on Wednesday, 30 June 2021 19:18

Singer Salif Keita performs during the 14th Mawazine World Rhythms International Music Festival in Rabat
Singer Salif Keita performs during the 14th Mawazine World Rhythms International Music Festival in Rabat June 4, 2015. REUTERS/Youssef Boudlal

In the 1978 hit 'Mandjou', Salif Keita expresses his gratitude to Guinean leader Ahmed Sékou Touré.

This is part 6 of a 6-part series.

Some of the greatest songs come out of the most trying circumstances. Mandjou is one such song. It featured on the eponymous 1978 album and had been composed when members of the Salif Keita-led Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako were living in exile after having fled their home country of Mali in early August.

 

Keita, Kanté Manfila (a musical director) and six other bandmates had packed their bags in a hurry in the dead of night, then headed south to the Côte d’Ivoire border. They made the right decision, seeing as the authorities had been looking for them.