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Amadou & Mariam
Dimanche a Bimako (2005)
Never heard of them? Would it surprise you if you heard that they are the most well known proponents of 'Afro Blues'?
Originally from Mali, this couple (they are married) are blind and in fact met on a music programme for the blind youth of Mali.
They have been around on the World music festival scene for years, I first saw them at WOMAD and bought a few bits and piece of compilations and then this. Sung in French this album won a BBC World music award as well as selling many, many copies all over the World.
Now it is true to say that my French is not good enough to understand more than a mere smattering of the words in these songs, but it is not about the words always for me, it is about the beat, the rhythm, the melody and the feeling.
The opening track for instance 'M'bife' is just stunningly beautiful; only two minutes long it is just pure harmony backing a beautiful female vocal that reminds me of lazy Sundays at festivals after the Saturday night crowds have gone and people are chilling with families.
Senegal Fast Food is perhaps the most well know of their tracks, I think I remember it being on Jools Holland or the like. A catchy, almost pop song that seems to mix African beats with French pop, with calypso type instrumentation, fabulous....oh and not to forget a bit of blues harmonica.
Artistiya is much more traditional in a West African way, well apart from the rock guitar, lol...seriously, the drumming is infectious and the vocal haunting and something you would expect to hear as a backing track on an Attenborough documentary. Nicely paced and very, very infectious, oh, and believe it or not I think there is a bit of didgeridoo.
Djanfa is my favourite track on the whole album, mainly because it is such a beautiful mess of sounds. The vocal is again, beautiful, a bit of ska trumpet in the background, compliments the guitar and the whole thing has a slightly Latin, slightly Cuban jazz feel to it. This is such a piece of work that I defy anyone 'not into' African music to not like this. It is truly, truly wonderful.
This album is what 'made' this couple in the populist sense, but you get the feeling that they don't really care about that; that they don't care about anything but the music.
There are other well known musicians featured on this album such as Mano Chao, now, if you want to listen to him, allow me to suggest an album called 'proxima estacion esperanza'. He is one crazy fella, but sorry, back on track now.
World music has long been a passion of mine, particularly African and Asian music, and I love it when I hear 'new' genres such as when I first heard 'Rai' music.
This couple, and this album have been a bit of a mainstay in my music collections and I have all bar 2 of the 15 songs on my iPod.
I can strongly, strongly recommend this as a gentle introduction into Afro Blues, and West African music in general....which by the way is a million miles away from African music that you may of heard which is often from South Africa that most often reaches our shores.
I promise you, buy this album, sit in the garden on a sunny afternoon or pleasant evening and you will be hooked, simply stunning, and I do not give that many albums 5 stars.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 MBifé Balafon
4 La Réalité
5 Sénégal Fast Food
7 La Fête Au Village
8 Camions Sauvages
9 Beaux Dimanches
10 La Paix
12 Taxi Bamako
13 Politic Amagni
15 MBifé Blues