Amadou and Mariam ‘Welcome to Mali’ (Because) 4/5

Blind Malian couple Amadou and Mariam rose to prominence with their last CD ‘Dimanche a Bamako’, which was recorded by Manu Chao. This time the production duties fall to Frenchman Antoine Moreau with one song produced by non other than Damian Albarn. However, the overall sound is very much that of the previous album with both a deliberate and creative attempt at fusing rootsy Malian music with modern rock-influenced and on this level alone it succeeds. Little wonder that Mojo magazine have made it their album of the month and this will certainly appeal to a wider audience and one not normally accustomed to West African sounds. Uplifting songs with high tempo rhythms predominate here as illustrated on the funky ‘Unissons-nous’ with Nigerian-UK based singer Kezia Jones guesting, or ‘Compagnon de la vie’ with its catchy riff and lovely hammond organ. However, on a lengthy album that weighs in at over sixty-five minutes and fifteen songs, the most impressive compositions that depart from the script and offer an alternative side ot the couple. The hypnotic groove of ‘Magoss’ with jazzy inflections on bass clarinet and inventive flute is a highlight as is the use of Malian violin on the haunting mid-tempo ‘Bozos’. Possibly the most traditional sounding piece is ‘Djuru’ with the use of kora over a heavy backbeat. Factor in more guest vocals from French rocker Juan Rozoff on ‘Je te kiffe’ and Damon Albarn’s layered electronica on ‘Sabali’ and you have an inspired album that will surely catapult Amadou and Mariam into the big time in the English-speaking world.

Tim Stenhouse