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Welcome to Mali

Amadou & Mariam

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Album Review

Following the wildly successful Dimanche a Bamako in 2008, World Circuit decided to bring the blind Malian duo Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia to American shores. Welcome to Mali, issued here on Nonesuch, is their debut in the United Stares (we're always last, even the Canadians were in on the debut, and their hotshot rapper K'Naan appears on one cut). Blur's Damon Albarn was enlisted to help out here — and he does as a co-writer and producer on the album's opening track and first single "Sabali." It's a killer track, with waves of Malian blues and incantatory singing, especially from the plaintive voice of Mariam, which contrasts well with the grainy, more guttural inflections of Amadou. Albarn also adds waves of gentle but pronounced electronica and some fine basswork, and pushes Amadou's raw guitar into the forefront. The rest of the set — whose only real flaw is how long it is — is filed with infectious Malian folk music threaded through with European pop influences. And does it ever work. The best cuts, such as "Compagnon de la Vie" with its funky Hammond B-3, "Ce N'Est Pas Bon" with its driving guitar and marimbas, and the traditional "Djuru" are simply infectious with their rhythmic invention and meld of voices. There is even a love song in English here, "I Follow You," that works despite the corny lyrics. The title track — also in English — is pure funky goodness with its killer meld of Malian folk forms, perfusion, and European-style street funk. Ultimately, Welcome to Mali is an auspicious and welcome introduction to Amadou & Mariam, whose music has universal appeal and breaks new ground for Afro-pop worldwide.

Customer Reviews

At home in Mali

I have never been to Mali but if it's anything like this record sounds, it's paradise there. North to south, this album is a journey. Windows down, sea to your left and feet up on the dashboard, the love of your life is next to you and life is good. Enjoy the ride.

Amazing!

Best album of the year! amazing vibes, mixture of new and old sounds combining the production of damon albarn and incredible guitar and vocals by amadou and mariam! the best so far!

Songlines Music Awards 2009 Winner: Best Group

It's official: we can all relax. Amadou & Mariam have come up trumps on their potentially difficult follow-up to Dimanche a Bamako. It's a disc that moves their catchy, good-natured sound away from the blues of yore and dispatches it - fist and devil's horns aloft - into rock territory. Which is hardly surprising - as a kid, Amadou Bagayoko grew up in Bamako listening to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and other heavy-riffing British rockers. He's said that they never sounded British to him; they sounded African. Welcome To Mali certainly takes African music as its inspiration, mixing traditional rhythms and instruments - balafon (xylophone), kora (harp-lute) and njarka fiddle - with rock guitars, celestial female choruses and the duo's sweet-and-sour vocals. Amadou & Mariam's 2005 breakthrough album Dimanche a Bamako was celebrated as much for producer Manu Chao's sonic trickery as for its unique mix of sweet melodies and funky grooves. On their follow-up, co-producers Marc-Antoine Moreau and Lauren Jais let Amadou & Mariam set the agenda on tracks such as the guitar-heavy 'Bozos' and the rollicking title-track, with its furious chords, keyboard wig-outs and heartfelt cries of 'Bamako, here we go'. In between the unnecessary cameos by K'naan and Juan Rozoff are the big horns of 'Compagnon de la Vie', the pop nugget 'Djama' and delicate, music-box touches of 'Ce N'est Pas Bon'. Sound effects are used sparingly but wisely: the single, 'Sabali', produced by Damon Albarn, is a faux-naef experiment in echo, bass and electronics that bears repeated listening. But it's only when Amadou & Mariam are rocking out - and they do so a lot - that they really, truly sound at home. (c) Jane Cornwell, Published in the Jan/Feb 2009 issues of Songlines magazine

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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Welcome to Mali, Amadou & Mariam
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