Mali’s most celebrated singer, Salif Keita, has long been a musical shape shifter, morphing through jazz, rock, pop, and roots styles. On his 2002 Moffou, he seemed to find his true sound, a mostly acoustic amalgam of everything that had gone before — matured, understated, but always intense. This set of 10 songs and one remix improves on that formula. “Calculer” delivers a quasi-Caribbean cadence; “Yambo” cranks up a Malian hunters’ groove with rich, natural sounds and hand percussion; “Kamourkie” plays like a vintage Salif blowout, with the album’s most gut-wrenching vocal performance. “Laban” evolves from restless brooding to serene uplift. Kante Manfila, Keita’s 1970s guitar man, guests; so do Buju Banton, who growls his way into a funky meditation about a haunted warrior returning from battle, and kora master Toumani Diabaté, who makes a stunning showing on the title track. Keita has always been great live, but this may be the best studio work of his career.
Salif Keita | Somerville Theatre, 55 Davis Square, Somerville | April 21 | 617.876.4275