I first heard Amadou & Mariam some weeks ago on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic. After spinning "Sabali," the show's new host, Jason Bentley, noted that the West African duo would open some of Coldplay's stadium dates this summer. I made a mental note that I'd feature the duo in Who's Next in the coming weeks. Lo and behold, articles on Amadou & Mariam turned up in Time magazine and the Los Angeles Times in recent days, forcing my hand, which was just as well, since Welcome To Mali,the pair's latest album, was officially released in the U.S. today(March 24). Check out the video for "Sabali," a track from the album,below.
Asyou heard in the video, Mariam has a unique, angelic voice, made evenmore compelling with the use of AutoTune, while Amadou has created anirresistible musical bed in this track. Aside from making incrediblemusic, Amadou & Mariam have an incredible story. Thehusband-and-wife duo met in 1975 at the Bamako Institute for the YoungBlind in Mali. At the time, Adadou Bagayoko had already gained somenotoriety in his home country as a guitarist in Les Ambassadeurs duMotel de Bamako, despite the fact that he lost his vision as a teenagerafter suffering from congenital cataracts. Mariam Doumbia, blind sincethe age of five, taught music and dance classes at the institute. Thepair bonded over music and in 1980, they were married and began tocollaborate on musical projects. Check out this video clip for "LesTemps Ont Change" from the duo's 2003 album, Wati.
One of my favorite things about music is discovering new artistsfrom other acts that I enjoy. I believe that's how many people arediscovering Amadou & Mariam. Although the duo became famous enoughto be known as "the blind couple of Mali," connections with non-Africanmusicians have helped the pair gain additional international notoriety.First, Paris-born, Spanish world music star Manu Chao stepped in to produce Dimanche A Bamako, the couple's 2005 breakthrough album. Later, Amadou & Mariam crossed paths with Gorillaz/Blur main man Damon Albarn, who released an album titled Mali Music in 2002. Albarn produced "Sabali" and guests on A & M's latest album, Welcome To Mali, which is bound to lead to fans discovering the joys of the duo. Other guests include recent Who's Next featured artist K'Naan.
Inthe past, Amadou & Mariam have won over audiences at such festivalsas Coachella, Lollapalooza and Glastonbury in the U.K. This summer,Chris Martin and company will share the stage with the pair. My adviceto those planning to attend those Coldplay dates: Get there early.Amadou & Mariam are an act you don't want to miss.
Whilethere's no denying that this Malian singer and guitarist are incredibletalents, the jury is still out if they will break big in America beyonda cult following. What do you think?