Malian Picnic to Accompany Salif Keita Live, and Impromptu Fundraiser

  • Malian Picnic in Prospect Park, for Salif Keita concert
  • Music of Salif Keita & Mali
  • Malian Picnic: Poulet Yassa and Le To Sauce Gombos
  • Bonus: Materials to Make it a Fundraiser

When the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn lineup came out in May, and the kids and I did our annual listening party, Salif Keita won out as our new favorite.  The more we got to know him, his country and his cause, we decided not only to make it a pop-up picnic, but a fundraiser. 

La Difference

This time, we begin with a song, because it serves as a great intro to both Salif Keita and his cause: “the fair treatment and social integration of persons with albinism.”  The name of the song is La Difference.  It’s a beautiful tune even if you don’t know French… but then when you see the translation of the lyrics below, you’ll see why it’s an even more poignant song.

His foundation site is full of information about the work his foundation does, and all the reasons his work is so crucial, and important ways you can help.  But first, his beautiful singing of his heartfelt song, enter your ears and your heart.

La Difference (The Difference)

by Saif Keita


Je suis un noir
I am a black

Ma peau est blanche
My skin is white

Et moi j’aime bien ça
And I like that

C’est La Différence qui est jolie
It’s the difference that is pretty

Je suis un blanc
I am a white

Mon sang est noir
My blood is black

Et moi j’adore ça
And I love it

C’est La Différence qui est jolie
It’s the difference that is pretty

Je voudrais
I would like

Que nous nous entendions dans l’amour
That we get along in love

Que nous nous comprenions dans l’amour et dans la paix – x2
That we understand each other in love and in peace – x2

La vie sera belle – x3
Life will be beautiful

Chacun à son tour aura son amour
Each in turn will have his love

La vie sera belle – x3
Life will be beautiful – x3

Chacun dans l’honneur
Everyone in the honor

Aura son bonheur
Will have his happiness

La vie sera belle
Life will be beautiful

Dô finai bai
Dô djélè
Dô kagni
Dô magni
O bai yé color kaon ka gnyoro dafa
O bai yé couleur kaon ka gnyoro dafa
Ny y
Ny y…



The Fundraiser Pop-up Picnic

Having falling hard for Salif, his music and his good work, I wanted not only to make a Malian picnic to enhance the experience of his live show for my family and friends, but we also wanted to make it a fundraiser.

While I was awaiting a response from the Salif Keita foundation about what kind of food Salif would suggest for a picnic to touch our hands, taste buds and bellies as well as our ears, eyes, hearts and dancing bodies, I continued some research on foods of Mali.  My googling landed me on the Mali Rising Foundation, and so I reached out to them, too.  I couldn’t help but want to help support their work as well, so Cultures Capsules donated the food, and friends donated for a taste of the food, to the cause of their choice.

We encourage you to do the same and have pulled all the necessary bits together for you:

  • The recipes we chose and why are included on the taste tabs,
  • A free spotify playlist of Salif’s music, as well as a live video.
  • Free print-outs about both foundations noted here as well Mali itself, to help you if you decide to do a fundraiser as well.


The BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn Salif Keita concert in Prospect Park on 13July19.

To delight eyes and ears, here is a free Spotify playlist with many of our favorite additional Salif Keita songs and collaborations, as well as one live video, thanks to Culturebox, and lastly, a time lapse of the food cooking, while the music of Salif Keita rang out in our kitchen <need vimeo link>.


Here also you can have a peek at a 2018 live show courtesy of Culturebox:

Lastly, <a time lapse video coming soon> of the cooking process for both the Le To Sauce Gombos and the Poulet Yassa, while the music of Salif helped it along, from the speakers.

A big thank you to both the Salif Keita Foundation and the Mali Rising Foundation for help in sorting the menu for the picnic!

According to Coumba Makalou, the Executive Director at the Salif Keita Foundation, two of Salif’s favorite foods are “Le To Sauce Gombos,” (okra stew with millet/corn flour dumplings) and “Mafe” (peanut sauce).

And Merrit Frey, the Executive Director of the Mali Rising foundation also helped me think through what other typical Malian food might be good for a picnic: “Poulet Yassa” a stew with chicken.  Merrit also mentioned that for a picnic, we could opt to eat the Yassa with french bread (and baguettes are plentiful in our part of Brooklyn, so that was easy), as some Malians of means may do, as a hold over from French colonization.  You can also read about her Malian dinner party here.

Everyone loved it, and we completely finished it in a matter of minutes, though I more than doubled both the Yassa and Sauce Gombos recipes.Next time I’ll quadruple it!  In fact, that would be typical Malian: because Merrit was initially sent a recipe for Yassa that fed 50 people.  🙂

The recipes included here are inspired by the above links but reflect my more than doubling the recipe, adding measurements for the ingredients (1 onion can vary wildly in size in various parts of the globe), and also a few slight adjustments.

Poulet Yassa

A popular dish in West Africa. This has been adapted to be provide smaller tastes to a large group (cutting chicken small instead of leaving large). We didn't add the carrots last time, but we wish that we had so have included them here. If you are making it for full meals, you can use bone-in chicken (or other meat!) and it will save you some time in cooking and separating from the marinade.
Adjust the timing of chicken in the marinade per the size of the cut. If small, 30 mins is fine, and probably no more than 1 hour. I large, a couple hours is ok.
Traditionally served with rice or couscous, french bread was recommended as a good picnic version (and not completely unheard of in Mali).
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time1 hr
Marinade1 hr
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: West African
Keyword: Malian, Picnic
Servings: 12


  • large pot


  • 5 lbs boneless chicken thigh, skinned and cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 cups carrots in 1/2 inch chunks
  • 3.5 cups onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp habanero, seeded and diced
  • 3 cups lemon juice (about 8-10 lemons-worth)
  • 4 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil (separated)
  • 2 tsp salt (separated)
  • 2 tsp freshly-grated black pepper
  • more salt and pepper to taste


Marinate Chicken

  • Juice the lemons and prep the chicken, onions, carrots and habanero per the ingredient list.
  • In a large, non-reactive bowl, mix lemon juice, dijon mustard, onions, and habanero. Then add chicken and leave to marinate in the fridge.

Cook the Yassa

  • Separate the chicken pieces from the marinade, wipe dry, and keep aside. Note that drying it is important to allow the chicken to brown, but it also won't end up terrible if there is a tiny bit of liquid)! While your'e in there, also separate out the onions from the liquid of the marinade and keep both aside.
  • Heat a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add 1/4 cup peanut oil and brown the chicken, then remove the chicken, cover with foil and keep aside.
  • In the same pot, heat it again to medium and add the remaining oil. Add the onions and cook them until beginning to brown. Add the liquid portion of the marinade, and when bubbling, add the carrots and the peanut butter. Cook 10 minutes then add the chicken pieces, and continue to cook until the chicken is cooked through and carrots are tender.
  • Serve with rice or couscous, or just some french bread.


Gombos Sauce

Along with Mafe, "Le To Sauce Gombos" is another favorite dish of Salif Keita.
The "To" in this dish a dumpling made of millet and/or corn flour, and it is eaten with Sauce Gombos, which is an okra stew. To be more picnic-friendly we decided to eat it with French bread which was delicious. For the To recipe, see the link for "To Sauce Gombos" link above.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: West African
Keyword: Malian, Okra, Picnic


  • 2 lbs fresh okra, with tops removed and chopped small (or grated)
  • 2.5 cups diced onion
  • 2 tsp Soumbala Soup (a very tpyical condiment in West Africa. There is no substitute that I can find, but I did use 4 tbps white miso to get a bit of fermented taste and it was great).
  • 2 cups chicken broth, hot
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt (and more to taste)


  • Heat a large pan over medium heat. When hot, add the oil, and then the diced onion, and cook until the onion begins to brown.
  • Add the okra and salt and cook, stirring only occasionally to allow the okra to stick to the bottom and brown a bit.
  • Once the okra is soft and has browned a bit, add the Soumbala (or miso), and stir to combine. Then add 1/2 cup of the hot broth and scrape up the browned bits. When there are no more browned bitts, add the remaining broth and cook until okra is soft and soup is combined.


Bonus File

Print this file to make your picnic or dinner a fundraiser! It contains the flyers we made about both foundations as well as fun facts about Mali, and a map of Africa.