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Amadou & Mariam - Welcome To Mali

Amadou & Mariam, Welcome To Mali

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

THE presence of Damon Albarn on Amadou and Mariam’s sixth album, Welcome To Mali, is another master-stroke given the extra appeal it’ll undoubtedly lend it.

Fans of African music, too, are in for a treat as this blind couple really do take their sound to a new level of popularity for world music – adding rap and string sections, a little reggae and even a French pop star.

Occasionally, the combination of sounds and influences sounds dizzying and threatens to strip away Amadou and Mariam’s own sense of identity. But the joy evident in their vocals is enough to suggest that they don’t care – so neither should we.

In truth, 16 tracks is a long journey and it won’t be to everyone’s tastes. But there’s no denying that when the album catches light, listeners of every persuasion should enjoy basking in its glow.

Album opener and former single Sabali is especially brilliant, a song produced by Damon Albarn that trades Amadou’s trademark guitar for a synth-based pulse that’s utterly vibrant. Mariam’s distinct warble-like vocal provides a stunning, almost playfully innocent, accompaniment – but it’s a song that’s every bit as comfortable on a popular dancefloor as it is on the world music stage of a forum such as the BBC’s Electric Proms.

Albarn’s influence proves mercurial and will undoubtedly enable this African duo to broaden their appeal still further.

Albarn participates again on Ce N’est Pas Bon, which reinstates some strong guitar work and thrives on its mix of boy-girl vocals and upbeat rhythms.

There’s traces of reggae influences on Djama, another track that effortlessly fuses genres, while Djuru adopts a lazy hip-hop beat that the likes of Akon would be proud of.

Juan Rozoff adds some strong vocals to another collaborative highlight, Je Te Kiffe, while there’s a real vibrancy to the fusion of sounds (both acoustic and electric) that makes up Masiteladi (some of the guitar work could even grace the soundtrack of a spaghetti western or a Tarantino movie).

Look out, too, for the loopy, almost hysterical Africa, featuring Knaan, and the romanticism of the piano-tinged I Follow You.

As a complete album, Welcome To Mali might still struggle to appeal to a lot of tastes, but in its very best moments it throws out a warm and very welcoming embrace. It’s well worth giving a go.

Download picks: Je Te Kiffe, Masiteladi, I Follow You, Ce N’est Pas Bon, Sabali

Track listing:

  1. Sabali
  2. Ce N’est Pas Bon
  3. Magosa
  4. Djama
  5. Djuru
  6. Je Te Kiffe
  7. Masiteladi
  8. Africa
  9. Compagnon de la Vie
  10. Unissons Nous
  11. Bozos
  12. I Follow You
  13. Welcome to Mali
  14. Batoma
  15. Sebeke
  16. Boula (Hidden Track)