Sunday, 26 October 2008

Amadou and Mariam - Welcome to Mali (Because 2008)

Much has been made of the perfect love held by musical duo/real-life couple, Amadou and Mariam, hailing from Mali, both blind and both as melodious as each other. They are perfect foils and mirrors for the other and together they create a joyous sound that twists and subverts their traditional Malian music into something contemporary and tinged with Western influences. A lot of that on this album can be attributed to their involvement in African Express and the subsequent help lent by Damon Albarn to the album. Opener, 'Sabali' could be a Gorrillaz tune, with its electronics and plinked and plonked thumb pianos while Mariam wails lovingly to her star-crossed lover. 'Ce N'est Pas Bon' features Albarn's participation (whatever that means) are more uptempo, featuring electronica soundscapes and a funky guitar and repeated joyous refrain meaning that it's not good, it's not good. It's a unifying sound, so pure and full of verve and vitality, so steeped in positive vibes that it's almost impossible to feel anything but joyful listening to it. With its Afrobeat foundations and the influence of Wstern sounds, it is an almost perfect modern African fusion album, however it falls prey to an arduous running time and each song tends to linger too long at the end, happy to jam till infinity. Album highlight is the hip-hop consciousness anthem 'Africa' featuring rapper K'Naan, and apart from the Albarn-influenced songs, 'Je Te Kiffe' is sexy and sweet all at the same tim, skipping along at a funky pace. Amadou and Mariam are perfect summertime festival music so it's a bit of a contrast listening to their album in sombre November. Having seen them light up the skies at Latitude this year, I can safely say they know how to rock a party and sometimes the songs shine through better when stripped away of everything except their core Malian roots folk heart. Amadou and Mariam are the voice of Africa now and it's exciting to hear how they wish to widen their influences to contemporary music from the rest of the world. But truth be told, the Malian foundations they bring are enough to make an excellent heartfelt beautiful collection of songs.

Amadou and Mariam official site

First 'Welcome to Mali' single, 'Sabali' is here:

The album is released on 17 November 2008.

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