Amadou & Mariam
The Malian twosome Amadou & Mariam are back with a new album, Folila. With its roots firmly planted in Mali, the collection takes added inspiration from some of the couple’s international alliances, and in particular Français Bertrand Cantat.
Three years after The Magic Couple, Amadou & Mariam’s new album, Folila is a powerful reminder of their mastery of the art. The duo has reworked the recipes of Welcome To Mali, which included contributions from Damon Albarn, Matthieu Chédid, K’Naan and Juan Rozoff.
The baker’s dozen of tracks reveals a new impressive list of artists ready to offer up their talents to the blind couple from Mali. “There were several stages. We did the dummies in Rome, Italy, we started recording in New York in December 2010, then we were in Mali in January, and we finished up in France. The locations had an impact on our songs: we found the traditional instrumentalists in Mali: on ngoni, kora, djembé and balafon,” explained Amadou.
The adventure started in the Downtown Studio in New York, during two weeks that took in vocal visits from Jake Shears from the Scissor Sisters, Theophilus London, Amp Fiddler, Tunde and Kyp from the band TV On The Radio, Ebony Bones, Antibalas from Brooklyn and the singer Santigold (ex-Santogold). Amadou & Mariam met most of their prestigious guests on the road, playing support act to western groups like Coldplay and U2 in front of audiences with little experience of traditional Mandinka music.
The Malian couple refuse to lump Folila with a world music tag, as Amadou explained: “We have a very different approach. World music was a way of adapting African music to the European context, but ours is a universal approach, with a dose of blues, rock and traditional music that goes down just about everywhere.”
The key to this album, though, is the presence of Bertrand Cantat, ex-lead singer of the cult group Noir Désir, who has been largely absent from the record scene since his release from prison and the controversy that has dogged his rare live performances. The rocker from Bordeaux travelled to Bamako to sing on four of the album’s tracks (Oh Amadou, Africa Mon Afrique, Mogo et Another Way) and play music on almost all of the others, either on guitar, harmonica or backing vocals. All of which adds up to quite a happening and adds polish to the best of the bunch on this album aimed at a broad western audience. It may be a touch less personal than their first records, but Amadou and Mariam’s new offering has some surprises up its sleeve.
Amadou & Mariam Folila (Because Music) 2012
Playing live on 24 June at the Solidays Festival in Paris and then on tour.
Amadou & Mariam’s official website