Originally billed as being an instalment of their new Eclipse series of concerts, in which the hall is plunged into complete darkness and the entire audience find themselves experiencing the conditions in which blind Malian duo Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia perform one of their concerts, the associated logistics and health and safety concerns saw their regular show come to Celtic Connections instead.
Played by a backing quartet alongside Amadou on chiming afropop guitar, the set built in power across its ninety-minute running time, from the strident afrogroove of Africa Mon Afrique to Wily Kataso’s easy funk. La Realite was wonderful, its urgent rhythm reminding of disco, while Beaux Dimanche strutted by on a rhythm most reminiscent of house music.
The pair fit together easily and naturally, with Amadou’s light but sonorous tone melding with Mariam’s fluttering falsetto, which was put to soaring use on the encore medley of Je Pense a Toi and Sabali, two of their signature songs.
“Kiss me,” says Mariam towards the end of the latter song, breaking into spoken English and out of the French employed in most of her lyrics, “kiss me, I love you.” As she says it, she reaches out a hand and runs her fingers affectionately through Amadou’s short-cropped hair, a beautiful gesture of warmth and affection we would have missed in the dark.