Posts Tagged ‘amadou & mariam’

First acts announced for WOMAD Charlton Park 2018

Posted on March 1st, 2018 in Recent posts by .



Amadou & Mariam, Ken Boothe and Dobet Gnahoré are among the first acts announced for this year’s WOMAD Charlton Park Festival from July 26-29

The first wave of names have been announced for this year’s WOMAD at Charlton Park. Recognised as one of the greatest world music events, the festival returns to its regular setting at the Wiltshire site this summer.

The prolific Malian power couple Amadou & Mariam will take to the stage this year, along with the legendary Jamaican singer Ken Boothe and Grammy Award winning singer Dobet Gnahoré, who hails from the Ivory Coast.

Camille, an eclectic and inventive French artist will also appear at Charlton Park, as will Afrobeat and hip-hop fusion group Afro Cluster.

Other confirmed acts so far include:

Django Django (UK)

Sharon Shannon (Ireland)

Jazzanova live featuring Paul Randolph (Germany)

Aeham Ahmad (Palestine/Syria)

Colectivo Danza Región & Cámara de Danza Comunidad (Colombia)

Electric Fields (Australia)

Ezra Collective (UK)

La Dame Blanche (Cuba)

Federspiel (Austria)

Gasper Nali (Malawi)

KermesZ à l’Est (Belgium)

KOKOKO! (Democratic Republic of Congo)

LADAMA (Brazil/Colombia/Venezuela/USA)

Papaya (Portugal/USA)

Pixvae (Colombia)

Tal National (Niger)


For tickets and more information, visit

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Mali: discover the music

Posted on November 3rd, 2016 in Features, Recent posts by .


Today, Mali remains a wellspring of extraordinary music and culture. Here is our essential guide to Malian music, including revealing articles about leading musicians, from Ali Farka Touré to Songhoy Blues and Toumani Diabaté, and videos of exciting live performances. But we begin with an overview of the key artists and albums…



After much deliberation, we are proud to present the top 25 albums to come from Mali, reminding us that there is an endless amount to celebrate in its music.

Read the article: ‘Top 25 Mali albums’



Songhoy Blues won the Newcomer category in the Songlines Music Awards 2016. Hailed last year as ‘Mali’s Next Big Thing’, the young band have continued to ride on a much-deserved wave of success.

Read the article: ‘Songhoy Blues: Songhai Stars’ 



Recorded shortly before his death in 2006, Ali Farka Touré’s Savane took him to new heights of critical acclaim. “Absolutely perfect – a truly great piece of work,” was the judgement of Ry Cooder and it’s impossible to find a single voice raised in disagreement.

Read the article: ‘Ali Farka Touré: a beginner’s guide’



The South African guitarist Derek Gripper is intent on bringing new audiences to Mali’s kora repertoire. Simon Broughton talks to him, on his first visit to the country to meet the instrument’s most famous player.

Read the article: ‘Derek Gripper: kora quest’



Is it possible for any article about Amadou & Mariam not to include the words ‘blind married couple’ in the opening sentence? There, I’ve just gone and done it again. It is an odd kind of badging when we’re talking about musical communication that, after all, engages our ears rather than our eyes. As Mariam puts it, “People know we are blind, but it is our work that counts”.

Read the article: ‘Amadou & Mariam: a beginner’s guide’



The young Touareg band are striking out from under Tinariwen’s shadow and doing their own thing. Andy Morgan reports…

Read the article: ‘Introducing… Imarhan’



Nigel Williamson speaks to the Malian singer about her career, which has been dedicated to offering African women a voice and correcting gender inequalities.

Read the article: ‘Oumou Sangaré: a beginner’s guide’



The kora has become almost synonymous with the music of Mali. Nigel Williamson examines the career of its chief exponent Toumani Diabaté

Read the article: ‘Toumani Diabaté: a beginner’s guide’

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Amadou & Mariam: a beginner’s guide

Posted on November 23rd, 2015 in Features, Recent posts by .


Nigel Williamson takes a look at the rise to global fame and fortune of West Africa’s golden couple 

Is it possible for any article about Amadou & Mariam not to include the words ‘blind married couple’ in the opening sentence? There, I’ve just gone and done it again. It is an odd kind of badging when we’re talking about musical communication that, after all, engages our ears rather than our eyes. As Mariam puts it, ‘‘People know we are blind, but it is our work that counts,’’ so perhaps we should simply describe them as virtuoso guitarist and soulful singers, two musicians with musical roots deep in West African tradition but with a restless desire to innovate and experiment. Their most recent album, Folila, features contributions from such hip American names as Santigold, TV on the Radio, Scissor Sisters’ Jake Shears and, controversially, from French ex-Noir Désir’s frontman Bertrand Cantat, as well as from Mali’s Toumani Diabaté and Bassekou Kouyaté. And yet its ambition is entirely consistent within the context of their musical growth and history.

Amadou Bagayoko was born in Bamako in 1954 with cataracts on his eyes and his sight deteriorated throughout his childhood. As a young man he enrolled at the Institut des Jeunes Aveugles (Institute for Young Blind) in Bamako. It was there in 1977 that he met Mariam Doumbia, who had lost her sight at the age of five after an untreated bout of measles.

Amadou was already a guitar prodigy, steeped in the records of Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Pink Floyd as well as traditional West African music. Mariam, four years his junior, was a singer, inspired as much by French chanson as by the great female West African singers, or djelis. They both performed with the Institute’s band, the Eclipse Orchestra, assembled and mentored by Idrissa Soumaoro, keyboard player with Les Ambassadeurs du Motel, whose line-up included Salif Keita as lead singer and in which a youthful Amadou also played. Amadou & Mariam married in 1980 and began performing together soon after, forming what was to become one of the great husband-and-wife duos.

Initially their two voices were accompanied only by Amadou’s guitar. But as the sound expanded, so did the couple’s ambitions. At the time there were few studios or producers in Mali and in 1990, eager to record their songs, the couple left for Abidjan in Ivory Coast. They spent five years there, using it as a base to tour West Africa and to record a series of cassette albums, subsequently remastered and reissued as the box set 1990-1995 L’Intégrale des Années Maliennes.

After a brief return to Mali, by 1996, they were in Paris playing a six-month residency in an African restaurant. While in France they met Marc-Antoine Moreau, who at the time was employed by Polygram and had heard one of their tapes on a visit to Mali. Moreau secured them a record deal and produced their first album to be released outside Africa, 1998’s Sou Ni Tilé. He has guided their career as manager, producer and friend since.

Sou Ni Tilé included the single ‘Je Pense à Toi’, one of many love songs Amadou has written for Mariam over more than 30 years of marriage. It became a hit on French radio, assisting the album to sell 100,000 copies. Further albums Tje ni Mousso (1999) and Wati (2002) followed, establishing them as world music favourites. But 2005’s Dimanche à Bamako, produced by Manu Chao, launched them into the mainstream. The album won a Victoires de la Musique (the French equivalent of a Grammy award), two BBC Radio 3 Awards for World Music and as festival favourites helped to catapulted them from WOMAD to Glastonbury.

Welcome to Mali followed in 2008. This time there was no Manu Chao. But the couple had developed a taste for embracing new partners and collaborators at every opportunity. ‘‘Sharing music and ideas with other musicians and finding new ways to express yourself is the most exciting thing you can do as a musician,” Amadou enthused. Welcome to Mali found them collaborating with Damon Albarn, K’naan and Keziah Jones. They toured with Coldplay and U2 and jammed with David Gilmour and Robert Plant, both musical heroes of Amadou’s from his youth. They even performed at a Nobel Peace Prize concert in honour of Barack Obama.

By now Amadou has taken to playing a gold guitar, built by James Trussart, instrument-maker to the stars whose clients include Eric Clapton. The expensive Philippe Starck dark glasses both wear are another symbol of their celebrity status. Yet nobody can accuse Amadou & Mariam of getting carried away by bling. In 2011, they staged a series of concerts in which audiences were required to sit in complete darkness. Under the title Eclipse and billed as a ‘sensory experiment,’ the show interspersed the couple’s music with sounds from the streets of Bamako with a backdrop of incense and other scents. The audience were literally sensing the music as Amadou & Mariam were experiencing it.

Their latest album Folila is the most ambitious realisation yet of their mission to create music with those from different backgrounds and cultures, expanding their horizons while remaining true to their own roots. As Damon Albarn put it, “I don’t think there’s ever been a band from Africa with whom people have engaged in quite such a way.”



(Sterns, 1998)

Their first release outside West Africa and the album that put them on the wider musical map when it was released in France. Still sounding fresh and invigorating 14 years on.






DimancheaBamakoDimanche à Bamako 

(Because, 2005)

Manu Chao’s touch as producer was light enough not to bury their core sound but strong enough to give their music fresh nuance and sparkle. A Top of the World review in #30.






Welcome-To-MaliWelcome to Mali

(Because, 2008)

The couple at their mature best – great songs performed with total elan, and with Damon Albarn and K’naan as the icing on the cake. Reviewed in #57.







The-Magic-CoupleThe Magic Couple: The Best of Amadou & Mariam 1997-2002

(Wrasse, 2009)

Fifteen tracks drawn from their first three French-recorded albums, prior to their pivotal encounter with Manu Chao. Reviewed in #63.

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Festival on the Niger, February 4-8

Posted on February 12th, 2015 in Live, Music Travel, News, Recent posts by .

fatou copy

Photography by Simon Broughton and Fanta Diarra

Simon Broughton joins a crowd of 25,000 to enjoy the Festival on the Niger in Segou, Mali

Surprisingly Fatoumata Diawara’s (pictured) appearance on Saturday at the Festival on the Niger was her first solo performance in Mali. Before the show she was nervous that, as she lives in France, people wouldn’t know her music and might not like it. She needn’t have worried. Fatoumata is elegant and dynamic on stage, spinning like a dervish towards the end of her set.

With an audience of over 25,000 people, the Festival on the Niger is the biggest music festival in West Africa. The main stage is actually a pontoon on the Niger itself and the audience is packed on the bank. This year’s festival included several Songlines Music Award winners: Fatoumata Diawara, Amadou & Mariam, and Bassekou Kouyaté, playing in his home town. Concluding the festival was Oumou Sangare with Fatoumata back on stage as one of the calabash-tossing backing singers. Oumou is a huge star in Mali and kept a packed crowd, who knew all her songs, partying till 4am.


Ensemble Regional de Segou. FD

As well as the thrill of seeing the big names on their home turf – or river – I was pleased to discover Safi Diabaté, a magnificent singer married to Toumani’s brother Mamdou, who played sublime kora flourishes around her vocals. I was hugely impressed by the Ensemble Regional de Segou, a venerable traditional group of 20 musicians including koras, balafon and drums (pictured above). A group like this wouldn’t be able to tour so can only be here. And I was surprised to find myself enjoying Penzy (pronounced Benji), a rapper who has kora, tama (talking drum) and dancing girls on stage.

Segou is a pleasant, leafy city of about half a million people. It’s become a centre of arts and crafts, partly thanks to the festival, now in its 11th year. “The purpose of the festival is to create social, economic and cultural development in Segou,” says festival director Mamou Daffe. There’s now an excellent recording studio – Studio Kôrè – with recordings in progress while I was there.

Ba Sounou Sacko mosque in Segou Koro. SB

Ba Sounou Sacko mosque in Segou Koro. SB

Segou is a relaxing and fascinating place to visit. In a pirogue or pinnase you can access villages inhabited by Bozo fishermen, pottery makers and Segou Koro (Old Segou) where there are wonderful mud-brick mosques dating back to when it was the centre of the Bamana Empire from 1640. The official FCO travel advice is still against “all but essential travel” in southern Mali (including Segou). But they admit they have to err on the over-cautious and admit that if you don’t do anything stupid it’s perfectly safe.

The Festival on the Niger also played host to the Festival of the Desert in Exile and its Cultural Caravan for Peace. The Caravan began in Southern Morocco at the Taragalte Festival in M’Hamid, the gateway to the Sahara. Then there were concerts in Segou and three other places in Mali and it will culminate in two big concerts in Bamako, the Malian capital, on February 20 and 21.


Malikanw. SB

The highlight of the Caravan concert was as band called Malikanw (Voices of Mali), put together by Manny Ansar of the Festival in the Desert. It features prominent musicians from six of Mali’s ethnic groups from Kayes to Kidal. Best known is probably singer and guitarist Samba Touré (who is Songhai) and the group also includes guitarist Ahmed Ag Kaedi (Touareg), guitarist Petit Gouro (Dogon), singer Sadio Sidibé (Fulani), fiddler Zoumana Tereta (Bamana) and singer Cheick Sissoko (Mande). It’s obviously a cultural statement, but musically they’re strong and would certainly be popular in Europe on tour [Pic]. They certainly went down well in Segou with ebullient dancing breaking out, once the official Minister for Reconciliation had left. “I think they are popular,” says Festival in the Desert organiser Manny Ansar, “because everyone can see themselves in this group.”

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