The beloved “blind couple from Mali” are back with another irresistible invitation – “Welcome to Mali”.
Since the mid -‘70’s, when they first met at Bamako’s Institute for the Young Blind, they have been bound by their common passion for music
They married and began performing as a duo in 1980, and after gaining a following in Africa, their magic finally spread internationally, with the success of their 1998 single “Mon amour, ma Cherie”.
A couple of solid albums followed and their credibility in World Music circles grew consistently.
Their 2004 award-winning album “Dimanche à Bamako”, produced by Manu Chao, reached platinum had a crossover appeal that expanded to include a new, multi-generational audience, and this commercial success led to a series of collaborations.
‘Welcome to Mali” extends this electro-acoustic blend, and also refines it.
Here, as always, Amadou & Mariam begin with essential Malian elements – blues-based rhythms and the call-and-response vocal style.
The opening track “Sabali,” co-written by and co-produced with Damon Albarn, begins with a seemingly archival recording of Mariam’s voice. This apparently ancient quality is slowly altered by the addition of an atmospheric keyboard, a Vocoder and programmed beats.
These electronic additions are more integrated on the second track, where Amadou predominates with his bluesy voice and distinctive guitar work. Then, by the third track, “Magossa” the groove is in full swing, and the relationship between African elements and modern sounds has settled into a pleasing blend of beats alongside indigenous instrumentation.
Elements of dub and reggae-funk reappear throughout the album, and are perfectly placed alongside the exquisite kora of Toumani Diabate on “Djuru”.
“Je Te Kiffe” is equally appealing and although sung in French with accented English backings, it’s surprisingly successful. As is Amadou’s tribute to his beloved, “I will Follow You”, which again proves the sincerity of his simplistic lyrics.
The album is scattered with guest artists, including the Ivory Coast’s Tiken Jah Fakoly, Nigeria’s blues-funk guitarist, Keziah Jones and the Somalian-born, Toronto-based rapper K’Naan.
Recorded over 12 months, in Paris, London, Dakar, and Senegal, the album is an extension of their previous works, and reflects the connections and the resulting collaborations of their musical travels.
“Welcome to Mali” is the easy cosmopolitanism excursion of two seasoned travellers.