19 October 2005

Amadou & Mariam's African Blues (CD review)

AMADOU & MARIAM: THE BEST OF AMADOU ET MARIAM-JE PENSE A TOI (Circular Moves)
artist site : buy CD/hear samples

Who are Amadou and Mariam thinking of? Each other, obviously, as they've taken their improbable musical love story from a shaky, disapproved start at the Mali Institute for the Young and Blind to international stardom. Also of fellow Africans, for whom their songs have encouraging social messages. Perhaps even of Western fans, whose purchases of their African blues music have propelled them into the world music spotlight.

In musical logic, this album belongs after their first three releases (Sou Ni Tile, Tje Ni Mousso, and Wati) but before this year's Manu-Chao-ified Dimanche a Bamako. Je Pense a Toi contains original versions of songs from the first three CDs, pumped up with horns, organ, and more. Musically, A&M deliver straight-up blues, particularly on the driving "Chantez-Chantez." But the addition of bass and organ can't erase the influences of Mali's sparse desert landscape (think Tinariwen) on tracks like "Toubala Kono." Don't look to Amadou & Mariam for traditional African instruments (though there's a little djembe here and there); do come for some of the best of African blues. You'll find it.
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