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SNWMF '06
PERFORMERS



 

 

Amadou & Mariam

“There are going to be many people who will find they have three copies of this album by the end of this year,” says the esteemed English broadcaster and critic, Charlie Gillett. “One that they bought themselves, the other two given by people who’ll say ‘I heard this and thought this is the kind of thing you like’.

“And there will be people who will themselves have bought three or four copies to give to friends, saying ‘I know you’ve sworn you’ll never like an album not in English, but this is the one to win you over’.”

* * *

Right now it feels like the defining album in a long and notable career -- an album that has gone nuclear in France and looks set to charm and capture audiences around the world.

The album is ‘Dimanche à Bamako’ (‘Sunday in Bamako’) by the Malian duo of Amadou & Mariam. Produced by the celebrated Manu Chao, ‘Dimanche à Bamako’ has propelled the couple high into the French charts, along the way winning both a gold disc and a prestigious Les Victoires de la Musique award –- the French equivalent of the Grammys.

Such phenomenal success cements the awesome reputation Amadou & Mariam have built throughout West Africa. They have been together for 25 years, their personal and professional lives long since intertwined. Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia, however, first came together through a shared adversity. Both are blind and they met at the Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako, the capital of Mali.

At that time Amadou was also cutting his teeth as a teenage guitarist in the Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako, one of the hottest bands in West Africa during the Seventies. Mariam, meanwhile, had grown up listening to the tunes on her father’s radio while also singing in the myriad traditional festivals that are a constant feature of everyday life in Mali.

Amadou and Mariam quickly became a couple, a relationship that eventually grew to include their musical careers. The duo, however, was constantly frustrated by the lack of professional opportunities in Mali and, in the late-Eighties they moved to Abidjan, the capital of neighbouring Côte d'Ivoire.
 

It was in Abidjan that Amadou & Mariam first came to serious attention. They recorded a series of five album cassettes, produced by the Nigerian Aliyu Maikano Adamu in a five-year period, from 1988 to 1993, that brought them fame right across West Africa.

Perhaps ironically, the prevalence of pirated cassettes in the region only served to increase demand for the music of Amadou & Mariam. They were certainly famous and recognised far beyond their native Mali, their music spilling over in a rich spectrum of textures and influences, from African pop to electric blues, reggae and Cuban son.

In common with many artists from French West Africa, of course, Amadou & Mariam also found a European home in Paris. From 1998 they toured heavily throughout France, at the same time releasing three major label albums that enhanced their reputations throughout the world.

The latter of those albums, ‘Wati’, contained a tune called ‘Chauffeurs’, an Afro-funk anthem that hugely impressed Manu Chao, the legendary artist whose 1998 ‘Clandestino’ album had proved to be a landmark of Latin music.

Chao heard the tune as he was driving on the Parisian freeway. Immediately seduced by the sheer energy of the track, he fixed a meeting with Amadou & Mariam which ended with his agreement to produce their next album.

The result was ‘Dimanche à Bamako’, which also features Chao joining Amadou & Mariam in front of the microphone on a couple of songs. The album was recorded in Bamako with a stellar list of musicians, including their friend of 30 years, the famed keyboard player Check Tidiane Seck and Tiken Jah Fakoly, the reggae singer from Côte d'Ivoire.

The album was released in France at the start of November 2004. Six months later ‘Dimanche à Bamako’ had become one of the most celebrated African albums in a generation; an album that transcended simple genres and reached across many audiences. ‘Dimanche à Bamako’ is released in the UK on Monday 6th June 2005. It will be followed by UK club and festival dates throughout the summer.

Amadou & Miriam Links:

The Music Of Amadou & Mariam - Track List


 

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