Album: Amadou & Mariam, The Magic Couple (Wrasse)

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The Independent Culture

It was their collaboration with Manu Chao on 2005's Dimanche à Bamako that propelled Amadou & Mariam to star status outside the Francophone African diaspora.

But by that time they had already released three albums recorded outside Africa, the highlights of which are collected on this splendid compilation. They show the duo to have developed their alliance well beyond their native Malian roots since first fusing musical destinies at Bamako's Institute for the Young Blind, where Amadou served as musical director and first encountered Mariam's enchanting voice. Even on 1997's Sou Ni Tile, their itchy African pop was being augmented and blended with the rhapsodic Indian violin of Sameh Catalan for "Je Pense à Toi", flowing like silk over the hand-drum pulse and Amadou's guitar fills; and by 1999's Tje Ni Mousso, they were incorporating Colombian trombonist Andres Viafara on "Djagneba", and Valentin Clastrier's hurdy-gurdy on "C'est Comme Ça". But it's in the gentle collusion of their voices that the duo's appeal resides, both in the call-and-response chant of a song like Amadou's "Combattants" or the lyrical grace of Mariam's "Sarama", where Amadou layers tendrils of cyclical guitar lines around her voice like rose briars around her heart. A magical couple indeed.

Download this: 'Je Pense à Toi', 'A Chacun Son Problème', 'Combattants', 'Sarama'