Album: Amadou & Mariam

Dimanche à Bamako, ALL OTHER
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The Independent Culture

Every year there are one or two world-music albums that somehow tap into more mainstream affections and become genuine crossover pop hits. Last year it was Tinariwen's Amassakoul, which has amassed tidy six-figure sales; this year, it's probably going to be Dimanche à Bamako by the blind, expatriate Malian couple Amadou and Mariam, which has already become an award-winning Top 20 pop success in France. It's easy to see why: there's a lightness of spirit to the duo's harmonies, both when dealing with serious matters such as political corruption, pan-African solidarity, and the situation faced by the ever-growing African diaspora; or by more domestic concerns such as weddings, carnivals, taxis, and even, in "Camions Sauvage", truck-driving. And the settings, realised by the couple and the Spanish producer Manu Chao, are relaxed and engaging at all times, with the core West African style tweaked here and there with touches of reggae, jazz and blues that seem to ooze organically from the songs, rather than impose upon them. The frequent use of sound effects also helps in bringing a wider human dimension to the songs, whether it's the cheering crowds and cop sirens of "La Réalité", or the background patina of children's voices behind the carnival song "La Fête Au Village".