AMADOU & MARIAM Dimanche à Bamako (Because)
One time Ambassadeurs guitarist Amadou Bagayoko and singer Mariam Doumbia have steadily grown in stature over the past decades. Their early Maikano cassettes - well up for reappraisal and reissue in the current dunecraze - were straightforward atmospheric 'desert blues' with solo electric guitar and vocals; by the time they signed to Universal in France in the late '90s they'd added a powerhouse rhythm section. The live show I caught at the Barbican a few years back had all the punch and strut of a great blues/ R&B outfit.
Meanwhile, somewhere in Europe, Manu Chao appeared out of left field as the anti-globalisation movement's pop idol with his immensely catchy and massively selling Clandestino album. Here we are a few years further down the line, but a joint Amadou & Mariam/ Manu Chao project was still not something you could have seen loping over the horizon. Chao's musical tastes seemed to be firmly Latino Caribbean with a punky twist, his trademark production technique was dabbling with found sounds. Amadou & Mariam's music has been altogether more earthy, straightforward, funky and Afro/ American. But they do share one common factor: neither have a lot of tunes in the bank. Chao followed up Clandestino by, bewilderingly, making the same record again. Amadou & Mariam are firmly in that John Lee Hooker/ Lightning Hopkins mould of reworking a small repertoire of melodies and riffs into new songs. Whoever had the idea, it was a brilliant one; a classic example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.
You get a bit of everything you'd expect from both, and much more. La Realité piledrives like a classic R&B revue, all wailing sirens and muscular blues guitar. Straight after it, Senegal Fast Food uses one of Chao's standard catchy reggae-lite tunes, but with a subtle punch he wouldn't usually display. Tracks like Beaux Dimanches and Djanfa have trumpet lending a Mexican hint to the Bambara proceedings; Camions Sauvages has a whiff of Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros about it (there is little higher praise); Artistiya is a rattling fox chase. They consistently push and pull each other in new directions: the end result is certainly the best Manu Chao record to date, and probably Amadou & Mariam's most accessible. Oh, and there are videos to watch at www.amadou-mariam.com if you've got broadband. It's a cliché for this time in the calendar, I know, but here's a first sighting of a potential critics' fave of the year.
Ian Anderson (from fRoots 262, April 2005)
Nonesuch Records site
Hear their performance at WOMAD 2005
I think that they were about the most assessible band at the World Music Concert at Brixton. I think that they are the perfect blend of Afro and Euro music ever.
Tom Henry. London
Even a man with no leg's could not stop dancing to these guy's.
grassi gianni- London
One of the 2005 live concerts and album too!
Annie in Edinburgh
These guys were my favourite discovery of 2005 - a permanent feature on my ipod! The influence of Manu Chao is apparent on the album, especially in comparison to their other stuff but it seems to work. i missed them live this year and was gutted when i realised too late they were touring.