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Album Review

If you think Mali is all about the kora or the Super Rail Band, you need to take a listen to Amadou & Mariam, a blind married couple who take Malian music in a whole different direction. They keep to the bluesy, pentatonic root that's the heart of the desert sound of Mali, but bring it toward the West, even letting guitars howl here and there and funking things up with some lovely keyboard work. Amadou & Mariam sing both separately and together (indeed, they're at their strongest together, when the two voices can work off each other on songs like "Chauffeurs"), and they're both strong writers, using rhythm as much as melody for a sound that's remarkably down-home. There's nothing complex about it — perhaps the Bamako equivalent of a bar band, albeit a very good one. "Sarama," for example, rocks wonderfully and hypnotically, and wouldn't sound out of place in a roadhouse, getting the crowd up and dancing. Perhaps it's because they don't sound especially African in their approach to music — allowing the roots to be just one part of the whole — that they haven't received the praise they deserve.

Biography

Genre: World

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

A musical husband-and-wife duo that got its start in Mali, Amadou & Mariam met in 1975 at Mali's Bamako Institute for the Young Blind. Amadou (born Amadou Bagayoko in Bamako in October of 1954) began his musical career in 1968, and by 1974 had joined Les Ambassadeurs du Motel, a leading group (which counted Salif Keita as a member) in his home country. He wound up at the aforementioned institute after becoming blind as a teenager through a congenital cataract. His future wife, Mariam Doumbia...
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Wati, Amadou & Mariam
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