062508 Salif Keita, Ottawa, ON

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Do you believe in luck?  I always have, and I can cast anecdotal tale after anecdotal tale proving my suspicions, but little actual proof.  When my flirtation with religious beliefs gave way to my increased exposure to logic and causation my belief in luck began to falter as well.  As did my luck, or so it seemed to me.  I soon convinced myself that believing in luck encouraged a confident attitude which in turn attracted better opportunities which tended to lead to some pretty lucky happenstances.  In other words, you make your own luck.  And thus logic and causation led me to believe in luck once again, which is the mental milieu in which I remain.

And man, am I lucky.  Oh, the anecdotes I could tell!

But this morning I was given pause.  I had tasked myself to write about the evening of June 25th, 2008 when I went to the Ottawa jazz festival in Confederation Park.  My ticketbook tells me that I was there to see Salif Keita and though I’ve seen him several times and I really enjoyed every one I was coming up pretty blank with regards to this particular show.  I’m pretty sure that Keita had brought some African dancers with him and I know that I must have had a good time, but beyond that I got nothin’.  So I turned to Salif’s wiki page for inspiration and, well, that’s when my logic-luck went cold.

So, I already knew that Salif Keita was born in the West African nation of Mali but I didn’t know that he was born into the Keita Royal family (which traces its origins back to the founder of Mali) and that he was born a prince.  Well (I thought), that probably explains how he became such a great musician, right?  Like, unlimited access to high-end instruments, top-quality instruction, and lots of leisure time for practise…  

But no.

Similarly, I already knew that Salif was an albino but I didn’t know that his albinism was seen as bad luck and that his family had cast him out and ostracized him because of it.  Prince-no-more.

And that’s when my brain hit a brick wall.  What about bad luck?  Does one make their own bad luck?  Does feeling bad-lucky make one experience more bad luck?  Hmm.  When I stop to think about it I can come up with several anecdotes to back this up too.  So I suppose I believe in bad luck too?  

But the weird thing is, I don’t.  Somehow I can’t bring myself to believe in bad luck.  Logic and causation (and anecdotes) bedamned.

Ah, but then I read on and wikipedia dispensed upon me yet another nugget of new knowledge, as is its habit.  It turns out that being a member of the Royal Family would have bound Salif Keita to something called “occupational prohibitions of his noble status,” a situation that would have prohibited him from becoming a musician (or anything else professionally).  

So, being ostracized from royalty for being born an albino allowed Salif Keita the freedom to pursue a career in music, a career that brought him fame and much success, one that helped to transform the ancient dusty music of the Malian kingdom into a living, breathing musical movement, a career that introduced this antique, transcendent music to the world, and one that ultimately brought this glorious sound to Confederation Park where I could enjoy it.

Seems that the bad luck Salif was born into turned out being pretty lucky after all.

(A scientific study recently proved that it’s lucky to be superstitious, if you can believe that.  Fortunately I do.  Oh, and UFOs are ghosts.)

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