If you tend not to pay attention to world music, you may have missed out thus far on the phenomenon that is Amadou and Mariam. However, do yourself a favor and take a little time out of your day to check them out. This couple from Mali has been making music since the ’80s, beginning with simple guitar/voice blues, and morphing into a combination of traditional Malian instrumentals and other global sounds sometimes referred to as Afro-blues. Both Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia are blind, and they met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind early in their lives. They have made a name for themselves in the world music scene over the past few decades, establishing a uniquely palatable combination of lesser-known world music styles with Western musical qualities. Their last album, 2008’s Welcome To Mali, was well-received by critics around the world, and featured the likes of Manu Chao and K’Naan.
Amadou and Mariam now have a new album, Folila, coming out next Tuesday via Nonesuch. This release continues their time-honored tradition of coupling traditional world instruments with more Western influences, and this particular album takes that concept a step further by incorporating well-known artists from the indie music world, as if to beckon in those with an aversion to the concept of world music. On Folila,we hear appearances from Santigold, Theophilus London, TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone and Tunde Adebimpe, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ Nick Zinner, and Scissor Sisters‘ Jake Shears. Originally, this album was intended to be two separate releases; one recorded in New York with these well-known guest artists, and another recorded in Bamako, Mali with contributions from traditional African musicians. However, once both versions had been recorded, Amadou and Mariam decided to combine both projects into one fantastic melting pot of culture and tradition. The result is an enjoyable medley of world and Western music, accessible enough to attract indie music fans, but still sophisticated enough to please longtime Amadou and Mariam fans.
Here’s the video for the second track off the album, Wily Kataso featuring Tunde & Kyp of TV On The Radio: