Friday, June 21, 2024

Artist In Focus: Amadou And Mariam

Today we will be taking a look at a couple of amazing artists from a bit further afield. We normally cover local acts to the midlands (as well as U.K.-based performers playing locally), but branching out sometimes and exploring other options is something I have wanted to do here for some time so I figured why not showcase this wonderful duo of visually impaired people from Mali. They have some shows coming up in the UK soon (all tour dates are listed below) so snap up some tickets before they are gone, as the duo are hugely popular.

Introducing The Duo

Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia first crossed paths at the Bamako Institute for Young Blind People in Mali during the 1970s. By the 1980s, they had mesmerised audiences across Mali and the Ivory Coast, catching the attention of the unconventional talent scout Marc-Antoine Moreau in the early 1990s. Moreau, who would later become their manager, encouraged them to pursue an international career.

A massive moment in the duo’s journey took place at the 1998 Transmusicales Festival in Rennes, France. The duo introduced their second album, ‘Sou Ni-Ti Le’, featuring a new French song, ‘Je Pense À Toi’.

Reflecting back on this moment the duo stated “There were so many people there. We didn’t know anyone, and no one knew us,” Amadou & Mariam recalls. “But we really set the place on fire. There were so many encores. I’ll never forget that first show at the festival.” Since then, the chorus “Je pense à toi, mon amour, ma bien aimée” has become a radio staple, and this particular track cemented their musical identity and made the duo stand out from other musicians that they shared the same space with. Unsurprisingly, the song holds a special place on their greatest hits compilation La Vie Est Belle which is due to drop on September 6th 2024

Surging Towards Sucess

The 2000s were a fruitful decade for Amadou & Mariam. Damon Albarn collaborated with them on the 2008 album ‘Welcome To Mali’ (Because Music), producing the impactful track ‘Sabali’, which opens the compilation. Their creative partnership extended to the hybrid project ‘Africa Express’, which included Johnny Marr and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This project also saw performances with Amadou’s hero David Gilmour, Sir Paul McCartney, Fatoumata Diawara, Cheik Tidiane Seck, Tony Allen, Salif Keïta, Oumou Sangaré, Rachid Taha, Catherine Ringer, Roots Manuva, Fatboy Slim, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Kooks, and Others.

In 2011, the couple was invited by the Manchester International Festival to perform in complete darkness at the New Century Hall. This experience, known as ‘Eclipse’, was later replicated in London and Paris, offering audiences a glimpse into how music is experienced by the blind.

The duo have made numerous international appearances supporting some of the world’s biggest bands and artists. Highlights include opening for Coldplay on their U.S. tour, supporting U2 in South Africa, performing with Blur in Hyde Park, and serving as special guests at Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. In June 2010 and 2014, Amadou & Mariam performed at the opening ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup. Not too shabby that!

La Vie Est Belle

This collection also includes new material, notably Mogolu released last month. Blending some pretty sweet Afro-beat rhythms with hypnotic melodies, and merging traditional instruments with modern electronic sounds. I was lucky enough to be given a preview copy of the track, and Mogolu is a pretty powerful song, adding new music to a greatest hits album is always welcome. Fortune Faded is still one of my favourite Red Hot Chilli Peppers songs that appeared on The Chill’s greatest hits album as we all know.

La Vie Est Belle also serves the purpose of commemorating the 20th anniversary of another of the duo’s acclaimed albums, ‘Dimanche À Bamako’. Produced by and featuring Manu Chao, the album sold over 500,000 copies worldwide, achieved triple platinum status in France, spent 101 weeks on the Top Albums charts, and garnered a Victoire de la Musique Award along with two BBC Radio 3 Awards. It is an absolute barnburner of an album, so it feels fitting to give the piece of music its flowers on its 20th anniversary. La Vie Est Belle also features two other collaborations from ‘Welcome To Mali’: ‘Masiteladi’ with guest star M and ‘Africa’ with K’Naan.

The collection also features collaborations with Santigold, TV On The Radio, Scissor Sisters, Amp Fiddler, Ebony Bones, and Theophilus London. The title track ‘La Vie Est Belle’, produced by Busy Twist, offers a preview of the duo’s future direction. “We love listening to all kinds of music so we can feed our sound with new influences,” Mariam explains. “Mixing different types and genres of music is something we’re really passionate about. There are no boundaries when it comes to music. We’ve matured with and through other artists.”

These two don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon and they will soon be touring the U.S.A. The European left of their world tour kicked off yesterday and as we said they have some shows lined up in the United Kingdom. I for one will be sure to try and catch a show!


02/06/24 – Bushfire Festival – Malkerns, Swaziland

15/06/24 – Eden Festival – Dumfries & Galloway, UK  

17/06/24 – Migration Matters Festival – Leadmill – Sheffield, UK

23/06/24 – La Bonne Venture – Dunkerke, France

25/06/24 – Botanicka Basta – Belgrade, Serbia           

28/06/24 – Le Broc Festival – Le Broc, France           

29/06/24 – Kampagn’Arts Festival – Saint Paterne, France      

30/06/24 – L’Escale – Goussainville, France    

04/07/24 – Clandestino Festival – Göteborg, Sweden            

06/07/24 – Les Murmures du Temps – Arbresle, France     

12/07/24 – Somerset House Summer Series – London, UK     

17/07/24 – Festival sur le Champ – Valence, France       

19/07/24 – Les Pluies de Juillet – Le Tanu, France      

20/07/24 – Mammouth Festival – Saint Fargeau, France 

21/07/24 – Le Pied Orange Festival – Le Val d’Ajol, France           

26/07/24 – WOMAD – Charlton Park, UK                      

27/07/24 – Esperanzah – Floreffe, Belgium