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World Music CD Reviews Africa

AMADOU & MARIAM

By MARIE ELSIE ST. LÉGER
Published May 30, 2006

Wali
Circular Moves

Amadou Bagayoga and Mariam Doumbia return with Wali, a rock ’n’ roll trip through modern Malian music. Armed with wicked electric guitar, Amadou freely explores Western phrasing while staying true to the kora sound of traditional Mali; Mariam, ever the able vocalist, comes into her own. Like fellow Malians Habib Koité and Ali Farka Touré, the Blind Couple of Mali moves freely between Old and New Worlds. “Ilbiwa” (“The Moors”) features the haunting jazz-like line of trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf over a groove worthy of Love’s Arthur Lee. MC Sergent Garcia, who seems to jump in wherever the action is, contributes a trademark flashy turn on “Baroni” (“Chatting”). But Amadou and Mariam truly shine when they move within more traditional forms, as on the contretemps “Fana” (“The Telltale”) and “Barika” (“Tribute”), on which n’goni player Moriba Koïta builds a strong foundation while Cheikh Tidiane Seck colors in and out of the lines with Hammond B3 organ. Don’t despair: Amadou and Mariam are firmly in control on Wali, allowing plenty of room for their band to work but keeping guitar and both vocals front and center.