Amadou and Mariam ‘Folila’ (Because) 3/5

On their latest album ace Malian duo are not necessarily breaking any new ground, but have wisely decided to stick with the previously the winning formula of mainly French lyrics (with the noticeable inclusion of English gradually slipping in to appeal directly to a young rock audience), driving musical accompaniment of Malian inspired blues and simple lyrics that are easy to relate to and instantly catchy. Possibly best of all is the blues feel that is constant throughout ‘Oh Amadou’ with lead vocals from the male lead as well as harmonica while the other obvious contender for most compelling number is the politically charged lyrics of ‘Africa mon Afrique’ with an undercurrent of Afro-Beat horns. Guest appearances include contemporary French new wave rock singer Bernard Cantet, formerly lead with influential 1980/1990s group Noir Désir who have now disbanded, and he seems to revel in the new musical universe, and contributes vocals on four songs and performs on guitar elsewhere. Scissor Sisters band member Jake Shears appears on the uptempo ‘Metemya’ offering vocals in English while Amp Fiddler contribute on the blues guitar driven ‘Wari’. A misguided attempt at pop-rock on ‘Dougou badia’ falls short of expectations and such blatant attempts at entering the charts are best avoided by a duo such as Amadou and Mariam who are fully capable of reaching a wider market on their own terms. A confirmation of their existing talents rather than a major departure. Nonetheless possible new ground for future releases can be found on the pared down closing song ‘Chérie’ which is a much needed illustration of the more reflective side to the duo’s repertoire. More of this side on album, please.

Tim Stenhouse