Husband and wife duo Amadou & Mariam have been making music since they first met over thirty years ago at the Institute for Young Blind People in Bamako, Mali.
Also known as "the blind couple from Mali," Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia's style of Afro-blues has hit a chord with audiences in recent years. The two are renown for their live shows, especially their festival performances.
For their sixth album Welcome To Mali, Amadou & Mariam put more of a pop spin on their unique mixture of traditional Mali song with various instruments from around the world.
The opening "Sabali" is a noticeable departure for the duo, electing for Mariam's innocent vocals to solo against an electro-pop background. Unfortunately, it's the only song of its kind, and one wonders why it was included when the rest of the album follows the well-known A&M sound.
Welcome To Mali is very pleasant to the ears, despite the fact that many of Amadou & Mariam's stateside listeners probably couldn't understand any of the lyrics. No bother. The beauty of the couple's music is that it's so positive that one couldn't help feel joyous while listening to the wooden-keyed balafon and the flute turtle in "Magossa" or the kora and organ in "Djuru" or the djembe and Malian violin in "Bozos."
Much of the album is celebratory, and it would be painful not to dance and simply sit still, especially during more rousing songs like "Djama" and the very energetic "Masiteladi."
There is only one English-language track, which is the romantic pseudo-ballad duet "I Follow You (Nia Na Fin)" that is surprisingly very touching and very catchy, with Amadou singing "I think of you every day, every night / I think of you every time, every where."
Amadou & Mariam make the kind of music that transcends genre and taste, and Welcome To Mali could also have been titled "Welcome To Dance."