Editors' pick

Amadou & Mariam


Editorial Review

Andrew Beaujon wrote about Amadou & Mariam in January 2006 for The Washington Post:

Let's face it, world music is usually too much work, more about chin-stroking than head-bobbing. But while the Malian duo of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia employ a mixture of influences dizzying enough to send music nerds into cardiac arrest, you don't need an ethnomusicology degree to enjoy their music (though some high school French might help).

Bagayoko is a West African legend, having played guitar in Les Ambassadeurs, Afro-pop innovators who deftly wedded Latin American and local rhythms. Now based in Paris, he and wife Doumbia have expanded that culture-splicing approach considerably. Hints, and sometimes outright steals, from indie rock (on "La Realite"), hip-hop ("Senegal Fast Food"), ska ("Taxi Bamako") and even, heaven help us, Blue Oyster Cult ("La Fete au Village") permeate the album, blending with Malian percussion and extremely deep bass.

Producer Manu Chao keeps the kitchen-sink approach from feeling cluttered by charging acoustic guitars and R&B beats with timekeeping, while Bagayoko's and Doumbia's engagingly off-key vocals -- fans of such singers as Astrud Gilberto and Blossom Dearie will find much to admire here -- explore politics both micro ("M'Bife," a love letter from Doumbia to her husband) and macro ("Politic Amagni," which makes a case that politics and violence are often indistinguishable).

Still, the overall mood is joy. The album's title refers to the traditional day for weddings -- Sunday -- in Mali's capital, and one suspects that Amadou & Mariam feel that if anyone's not up and dancing quickly, they've failed as hosts. They, and you, have nothing to worry about.