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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Mali's best-known singer, Salif Keita, has long spoken out on behalf of albinos. He is an albino himself, and he knows the condescension, superstition and fear that his condition inspires in much of Africa.

On his new album, "La Difference," Keita sings about the subject for the first time.

Reviewer Banning Eyre says the album's title track encapsulates the career and biography of an African legend, all in one song.

(Soundbite of song, "La Difference")

Mr. SALIF KEITA (Singer): (Singing in foreign language)

BANNING EYRE: Salif Keita sings: My skin is white, my blood is black, but that difference is beautiful, something to celebrate. Keita descends from a noble line in Mali, and when he became a singer in the late '60s, it was a serious violation of protocol in his traditional society. Singers entertained nobles. Nobles did not sing. But facing life as an albino in Africa, Keita decided early on that he was going to make his own rules. And that's exactly what he's done ever since.

(Soundbite of song, "La Difference")

Mr. KEITA: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: The stigma of albinism has always been part of Keita's biography, one of the things he overcame on his way to international stardom. But then he began hearing grisly stories about massacres in other parts of Africa - albinos being sacrificed so their blood, hair and body parts could be sold for use in rituals.

A few years back, Keita started a foundation to counter superstition about albinism. But with this song, he makes it personal, saying not only that albinism is beautiful, but that the very fact of being different is beautiful.

(Soundbite of song, "La Difference")

Mr. KEITA: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Keita has traveled a long road to sing this song, both in his life experience and also musically. After experimenting with jazz, reggae, Latin music and rock, Keita had a revelation a few years back. He arrived at what he considers an ideal blend of traditional African sounds and modern musical aesthetics, a sound that perfectly expresses who he is.

(Soundbite of song, "La Difference")

Mr. KEITA: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: This is Keita's third album since his musical epiphany, and it finds him more at home in his sound than ever. What a perfect moment for him to exclaim: I'm black, and I'm white, and I'm proud. Vive la difference, indeed.

(Soundbite of song, "La Difference")

Mr. KEITA: (Singing in foreign language)

SIEGEL: Banning Eyre is senior editor at Afropop.org. He reviewed "La Difference" by Salif Keita.

(Soundbite of song, "La Difference")

Mr. KEITA: (Singing in foreign language)

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

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