Review by Ben Thompson on,
The Observer

If you hadn’t ever heard a record by this Malian husband and wife duo, but had only read of their initial meeting at Bamako’s Institut des Jeunes Aveugles in the punk rock year of 1976, and the heart-warming showbiz odyssey that led them to their current exalted status as improbable figureheads of African music’s commercial upsurge, it would be all too easy to think of Amadou and Mariam as a kind of Afropop Peters and Lee. But while the ability to dispense feelgood vibrations from within a doubly reinforced stockade of blindness and domestic felicity has been a feature of their ever-widening allure, it is the spindly irresistibility of their music that is the most important thing about them.

Both the powerhouse blues-rock guitar of Amadou Bagayoko and the sweetly stentorian voice of Mariam Doumbia contain severity as well as gentleness. The potent personal chemistry through which these impulses are resolved places the Malians firmly in the lineage of such charismatic outriders of yin/yang balance as the Carpenters, Sonic Youth and the White Stripes. And such is the inviolate solidity of the duo’s high-tensile core that none of the consequences of the success they’ve enjoyed – not even Amadou suffering the indignity of being called ‘a fucking geezer’ by Damon Albarn in this mag last month – seems to have had the slightest impact on it.

Compare this new album’s most obvious stylistic departure – the opening single ‘Sabali’, in which Albarn’s spookily disembodied production boldly relocates Mariam’s whispered sweet nothings within a musical landscape that somehow evokes both Mercury Rev and Jean Michel Jarre – with the apparently more homespun recordings on the superb 2006 compilation 1990-1995: Le Meilleur Des Annees Maliennes. For all the novelty value of Damon’s wonky electro-pop arpeggios, the earlier work has just as much to offer.

The bridge between these two very different sounds was 2005’s breakthrough Dimanche à Bamako. Say what you like about Manu Chao’s terrible fashion sense, but there’s no denying he did a great job of introducing Amadou & Mariam to a wider audience via the addition of strategic background noise.

And the great thing about this follow-up is the way it builds on that foundation without lapsing into self-consciousness. Amadou & Mariam glide smoothly through gear changes that would strip the teeth of a less well-tuned musical motor: from the garage-rock of ‘Ce N’est Pas Bon’ to the comical disco-drums of ‘Djama’, from ‘Djuru”s solemn kora to the euphoria of ‘Africa”s ‘West Coast/East Coast collaboration’ with Somalian rapper K’Naan.

Talking in last month’s OMM about how much he enjoyed Deep Purple and Led Zep as a teenager, Amadou said ‘to us it didn’t sound British, it sounded African’. He means this not in some sense of all music being African, but as a reflection of the universal applicability of Ian Gillan or Jimmy Page’s very specific attributes. And that is how Welcome to Mali will be appreciated by an audience of millions: not as ‘world music’, but as the product of an authentically global pop phenomenon.


The African duo met at a school for the blind and have since written a song for the 2006 World Cup and their latest album features production by Damon Albarn.

LABEL: Nonesuch
RELEASE DATE: 24 March 2009
DISCS: 1 disc
GENRE(S): World

NOTES: Original European has been released in 17 Nov 2008.

3 Jul 2009 20:00
Hyde Park : supporting BLUR, London

7 Jul 2009 20:00
Manchester International Festival, Manchester, UK

8 Jul 2009 20:00
Manchester International Festival, Manchester, UK

10 Jul 2009 20:00
The Amphitheater at Clark County (supporting Coldplay) Portland, Oregon

11 Jul 2009 20:00

The Gorge Amphitheatre (supporting Coldplay) George, Washington

13 Jul 2009 20:00
Shoreline Amphitheatre (supporting Coldplay) San Francisco, California

16 Jul 2009 20:00
Cricket Wireless Amphitheatre (supporting Coldplay) San Diego, California

18 Jul 2009 20:00
Home Depot Center (supporting Coldplay) Carson, California

21 Jul 2009 20:00
Superpages.com Center (supporting Coldplay) Dallas, Texas

22 Jul 2009 20:00
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (supporting Coldplay) Houston, Texas

22 Jul 2009 20:00
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion (supporting Coldplay) Houston, Texas

24 Jul 2009 20:00
Verizon Wireless Amphitheater (supporting Coldplay) Maryland Heights, Missouri

28 Jul 2009 20:00
iTunes Festival at the Roundhouse, Camden, London, UK

6 Ago 2009 20:00
Fiesta Sète Sète

7 Ago 2009 20:00
Nuits du Sud Vence

8 Ago 2009 20:00
Porto Latino Saint-Florent

9 Ago 2009 20:00
Big Chill Festival Eastnor Castle

Official Site: www.amadou-mariam.com

Add to FacebookAdd to NewsvineAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Furl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s