Sunday, November 09, 2008

AMADOU AND MARIAM - Welcome to Mali (Because)

The question “how on earth do they follow this?” has hung in the air almost since the very moment Amadou and Mariam released Dimanche a Bamako, their award-hoovering collaboration with Manu Chao in 2005. Although Welcome to Mali doesn't quite have the same easy charm or proliferation of hook-laden nuggets as that album, thanks to the continued involvement of Dimanche co-producers Marc-Antoine Moreau and Lauren Jais the Malian couple continue to expand their earthy rhythm and blues into pop crossover territory.
Without Manu, there is a little less of the found sounds and languid laid back grooves, and a bit more of the basic Amadou and Mariam R 'n' B template of guitar, rhythm section and those charmingly limited vocals, although the palette of sound is expanded at requisite moments – to the horns, keyboard and balafon of Dimanche are added ngoni, njarka fiddle and kora, and they even manage to pull off a couple of string arrangements on the title track and the ballad I Follow You.
However, if Welcome to Mali lacks the sense of momentum and cohesion of its predecessor, it's in part down to over-dependence on guest appearances. Clearly the couple are hot property at the moment, but there's an air of tokenism to the superfluous additions of the likes of K'Naan and Juan Rozoff to songs that would stand up perfectly well without them. An exception is Damon Albarn, who is admirably restrained in support of Ce N'Est Pas Bon and, as guest producer, infuses Sabali with a sweet sound that's mercifully closer to Gorillaz than The Good, The Bad and The Queen.
Overall then, a satisfactory and place-cementing follow-up that consolidates and expands their appealing pop-meets-roots sound.

Amadou and Mariam website


Satan_My_Lord said...

amadou & mariam were existing long before's true that manu's touch make them more famous, but there is great history in their music, wonderful albums and great songs...still haven't listened welcome to mali, but I won't miss it!

Con said...

Thanks for the comment and great picture! Yes, I am aware of pre-Dimanche A&M, but have to confes that I found their sound rather limited before Manu took control. When they were good they were really really good - Bali Maou, Fantani, Nangaraba - but find that the 2005 compilation 'Je Pense a Toi' fulfils pretty much all my pre-Dimanche needs.

Satan_My_Lord said...

now that I have a picture of "Welcome to Mali" I found many common melodies and rhythms with "dimanche a bamako", quite similar music..and I like that! i would say "dimanche part two"