Amadou & Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako


Our World Music spotlight swings back to the African country of Mali, known to World Music enthusiasts as the home to many acclaimed World Music artists, including names like Ali Farka Toure and Rokia Traore. But during 2005, two other Malian artists began attracting a huge amount of attention, even though they’ve been recording and releasing for the best part of the past three decades.

Their names are Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia, a blind, married couple who perform simply as Amadou and Mariam. This duo has already achieved a large measure of fame in the West African region, but since the release of their latest album, ‘Dimanche A Bamako’, the good word about them has spread around the world. Since its European release earlier this year, the album has achieved Gold status, reached the top of the French album charts and has been awarded a Les Victoires de la Musique, the French equivalent of a GRAMMY.

Much of the credit for that must go to the renowned, successful and innovative World Music artist, Manu Chao. In 2003, after having heard the couple on the radio while driving in his car, Manu was overwhelmed with an urge to collaborate with them. He sought them out in a Paris recording studio, liked the songs they were creating, and proposed that he produce the developing album. The result is Dimanche à Bamako. Once again, Manu Chao has excelled himself by successfully taking Amadou and Mariam’s energetic mix of Malian sounds, blues-rock, Latin salsa, and reggae and melding them with his own distinctive potpourri of sounds, styles and technological tricks.

Listen to the arrangements on dynamic tracks like ‘Taxi Bamako’ and ‘Coulibaly’, or the brilliant ‘Senegal Fast Food’, and Manu Chao’s creative influence is obvious. Manu Chao also co-wrote and added his vocals to some of these songs. But to his credit, ‘Dimanche A Bamako’ achieves its first aim, which is to expose the amazing sound of Amadou and Mariam to a global audience and to give this hard-working and talented couple the success and universal acclaim that has been long overdue. ‘Dimanche A Bamako’ is my choice for ‘World Album of the Year’ for 2005.

Stephen Segerman