16 August 2005

Dimanche a Bamako: Amadou & Mariam (CD review)

Malian music is hot - from the Festival in the Desert to the urban sounds of Bamako. But some of the hottest music is also the coolest, like the laid-back guitar vibe of Tinariwen. And right on their heels are the blind couple Amadou and Mariam, with their fourth release. While it features the same great Malian blues, there's a twist. This CD is the result of a collaboration between the couple and global music icon Manu Chao, who produced and contributed to the music. His influence is unmistakable on tracks like "La Realite," which includes the kind of sound/music programming featured on his own albums, and he does vocal duties on "Taxi Bamako" and "Senegal Fast Food." Throughout the CD, Chao's touch gives a more accessible, sound, particularly to newby ears that might find Malian music overly repetitive. He initiated this project after hearing an Amadou & Mariam song on his car radio. "I rushed out and bought all their CDs," Chao says in a Radio France Internationale interview. "Every day I'd put their records on at home and when I started singing along, I'd add to them. ... It became a little game I played every day." The CD would be enhanced by including English translations (or even summaries) of the French lyrics. But that's a small complaint about an excellent album. Dimanche a Bamako (Sundays in Bamako) oozes a laid-back musical sophistication that will draw in many who don't think they like world music.

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