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Music Review: Amadou & Mariam – Dimanche A Bamako

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The life and love story of Amadou and Mariam is perhaps as remarkable as their music. Celebrating years of stardom in West Africa, their careers stretch back over three decades – Amadou Bagayoko began playing guitar for the legendary Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako back in the late ‘60’s. He met Mariam at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind and in 1980 they forged a union in both marriage and music. Their elders couldn’t see a blind couple surviving in the world; Amadou & Mariam saw something else…

By 1985 the couple was catching the attention of the Malian population. They embarked on a tour of Burkina Faso and in l986 they jumped over yet another hurdle … A&M emigrated to the Ivory Coast (separating from their three children) to record a series of cassettes. These songs would return seven years later to grace the album, Sou Ni Tile; which was not only a hit in France but the beginning of the radiant Bambara blues that would bring them to full bloom.

In 2003 they were wooed by world/Latin music star, Manu Chao, who produced their latest, Dimanche A Bamako (Sunday In Bamako) in 2004. Chao, a superstar almost everywhere but in the U.S., adds a cosmopolitan, eclectic beat to the album — making this release their most accessible to Western ears.

“Senegal Fast Food” is a subway stop from American pop – a twangy clattering of percussion, harmonica, and sirens with snippets of street noise throughout. You might hear it driving through the streets of Dakar or in a dance club in Amsterdam. “Politic Amagni” is folk-rooted reggae with a meaningful message.

Dimanche A Bamako is an energetic, frenetic mix of rhythmic inflections that flow in and around the four corners of the globe. It travels well beyond the borders of Africa, teaching us that for all our differences, the world of culture and art are universally compatible. Amadou & Mariam have found their place in the sun; whether they will shine in the United States is yet to be seen.

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