By Ernest Barteldes
Salif Keita / Courtnee Roze
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn
Saturday, July 13, 2019
Playing before a packed audience at the Prospect Park Bandshell, Courtney Rose took to the stage with electronic sounds and various samples, including Michael Jackson’s intro to “Thriller,” James Brown’s trademark screams and even sounds from South African acapella group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and engaged the audience with her lively beats and percussion, getting them to clap along throughout the initial parts of the set.
But her act, which would be quite effective in a smaller venue soon got a bit repetitive and tiresome for a stage as big as this one, and one could notice the audience getting less and less interested and talking to each other as the set – which lasted for about one hour – went along.
Salif Keita came on stage dressed in a white outfit that included a bowler hat and was presented with the award as a new inductee of the Afropop Hall of Fame (which I had no idea existed), and shortly after the show began. His voice still retains his dramatic inflection, and seems unchanged in spite of all these years, only cracking during rare moments.
His fans were moving and singing along to the music – his band was impeccable in spite of being incomplete – some of his musicians had issues getting visas to perform in the US, something that has been plaguing international performers in recent years.
At one point, he challenged the Americans in the audience – “I’ve heard Americans can’t dance, so prove me wrong, you can try,” and led on with a fast-beat tune that got everyone moving. It was a beautiful set, and here’s hoping the rumors of his impending retirement are not true – Salif Leita is a jewel of the music of Mali, a nation that has given audiences more than their fair share of musical genius.