Posts Tagged ‘amadou & mariam’

Cambridge Folk Festival 2013: Day One

Posted on August 1st, 2013 in Recent posts, Reviews by .


A look back at last weekend’s Cambridge Folk Festival

Words by Kevin Bourke

With its 50th anniversary looming next year, the Cambridge Folk Festival remains the pre-eminent event of its sort, quite probably in the world.

They’ve developed an uncanny knack for mixing big names like Bellowhead, Amadou & Mariam and The Waterboys with old favourites such as Steeleye Span and Martin Simpson, pulling in capacity crowds who are then exposed to new music from around the world that they might not otherwise have discovered.

The first full day of the festival on the main stage, for instance, opened with a one-two whammy from Korrontzi, infectiously exploring the music of the Basque region, and Finnish supergroup Frigg, offering a rousing blend of Nordic folk, American bluegrass and, erm, The Rolling Stones. Both of them went down a storm and set up a receptive audience for the more reflective, if equally electrifying, trance-folk of Sam Lee and Friends. Sam is the leading light in The Nest Collective, who are playing a huge part in regenerating the contemporary live club scene. He also curates The Den, one of the festival’s innovations over the last few years and the place to go if you wanted to check out what today’s folk kids – and believe me, there are a lot of them – are cooking up. 

Of course, it’s impossible to get to see and hear everyone, and I should acknowledge that the esteemed Mark Radcliffe has already mildly berated me for not finding time to check out Larkin Poe. Don’t repeat my mistake, from all reports.

Back on the main stage, the superb Austin-based songwriter Patty Griffin, delivered an impressive and touching set drawn largely from her acclaimed American Kid. By a strange coincidence, over on Stage Two Darrell Scott, her erstwhile bandmate in Robert Plant’s Band of Joy, was winning friends left and right for his deft songwriting (“country music how I remember it”, as he says) and his jaw-dropping musicianship. His upcoming tour with old pal Tim O’Brien, promoting their once-in-a-decade joint album, Memories and Moments, should be unmissable.

Line-ups don’t get much more stellar than LAPD, including three quarters of the hugely-influential Planxty and the original Bothy Band fiddler amongst their number. Liam O’Flynn, Andy Irvine, Paddy Glackin and Donal Lunny are simply legendary names in Irish music and they didn’t disappoint with a quicksilver set of superb playing. Earlier in the day at their onstage interview with Colin Irwin, they’d told some hilarious, occasionally scurrilous, tales from their shared history and their musical and personal bond shone out from the stage.

Amadou & Mariam have rapidly become adept practitioners of the crowd-pleasing festival set and their high-energy early evening hour seemed to slightly stun the crowds pouring in for The Levellers. I opted instead to hop over to Stage Two for Emily Barker & The Red Clay Halo. Side-stage at least, you could often still hear the folk-Clash musical stylings of The Levellers but Emily’s often-autobiographical tunes proved robust enough to weather the onslaught with some aplomb.

Headlining on the main stage, Bellowhead once again made a convincing claim to be the best live band in the land, certainly in the ‘folk-jazz-burlesque big band’ category. Boden is, of course, a brazen, only slightly demented, frontman but his umpteen band-mates are hardly shrinking violets either. Intoxicating, witty and deceptively slick beneath their shambolic exterior, you sometimes wonder if there’s anything they couldn’t breathe new life into. Then you start dancing again…

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The Top 25 Mali Albums – No.3

Posted on July 15th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

Amadou & Mariam – Dimanche à Bamako (Because, 2004)

By the time Dimanche à Bamako was released in 2004, the blind Malian couple Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia had been playing together for 20 years. International success came after they moved to Paris in the late 90s, and three fine albums of distinctive Afro-blues followed to establish them as one of West Africa’s best-selling acts. But what made Dimanche à Bamako a career highlight was the presence of the mercurial Manu Chao as producer. The result was the duo’s most diverse and joyous album, a thrilling mix of Amadou’s deep blues guitar, Mariam’s wailing vocals and Chao’s unique global Gypsy touches. Chao contributed several tunes, including the effervescent ‘Taxi Bamako’ and the global mash of ‘Sénégal Fast Food’. His trademark kinetic energy is in ample evidence and the cop-car sirens, the seamless segues, the ambient street sounds and the eclectic instrumentation could all have come from a Manu Chao record.

But this was no takeover bid – Dimanche à Bamako is very much an Amadou & Mariam record, which Chao merely enhanced by sprinkling over it a little of his technicolor magic dust. ‘Coulibaly’ layers African harmonies and bluesy guitar over a swirling rhythm of clattering percussion, Amadou’s magisterial ‘La Réalité’ drives relentlessly and on ‘Camions Sauvages’ Mariam even flirts deliciously with rap. The duo has since collaborated with numerous other Western musicians from Damon Albarn to the Scissor Sisters. But none has matched the joie de vivre that Chao brought to this set.

Click here to buy the album on Amazon

Click here to download the album on iTunes

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Cambridge Folk Festival full line-up announced

Posted on April 18th, 2013 in News, Recent posts by .

© Philip Ryalls

Amadou & Mariam, Bellowhead and The Staves all set to play summer festival

Chosen as one of Songlines Top 10 UK Festivals in our upcoming guide in the next issue (June 2013, #92), the real ale-guzzling folk festival returns on July 25-28. 

Acclaimed Malian husband-and-wife duo, Amadou & Mariam, and highly tipped trio The Staves are amongst the latest acts to be announced. They join seasoned folk festival goers Bellowhead, legendary finger-picker Tommy Emmanuel and fresh faces in Emma Sweeney and Portico Quartet’s Nick Mulvey. To see the line-up in full and for more information visit

Don’t forget to check out our definitive guide to the Best UK and International festival here. For full profiles of each, grab a copy of the new issue, on sale in the UK on April 26.

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More artists join the Africa Express train

Posted on August 15th, 2012 in News, Recent posts by .

The collective of African and Western musicians already boasted an incredible line-up when they announced their plans to take a week-long musical adventure across mainland Britain, but it has just been announced that the line-up is in fact even bigger. 

It was revealed that Tony Allen, Carl Barât, Toumani Diabaté, Nicolas Jaar, Krar Collective (pictured), Kyla La Grange, M1 (Dead Prez), M.anifest, Spoek Mathambo, John McClure (Reverend and the Makers), Nneka, The Temper Trap, Marques Toliver, The Very Best (Soundsystem) and Rizzle Kicks will be joining the ranks. 

The already confirmed line up included Amadou & Mariam, Damon Albarn, Rokia Traoré, Kano, Baloji, Charli XCX, Fatoumata Diarawa, Noisettes, Jupiter & Okwess International and Jack Steadman (Bombay Bicycle Club). 

The train leaves London on September 2 as part of the London 2012 Festival and will travel through England, Scotland and Wales. Confirmed shows include:

Monday September 3: MIDDLESBOROUGH – Town Hall
Tuesday September 4: GLASGOW – The Arches
Wednesday September 5: MANCHESTER – The Ritz
Thursday September  6: CARDIFF – Solus (Cardiff University)
Friday September  7: BRISTOL – The Big Top @ Creative Common
Saturday September 8: Finale concert in Granary Square, Kings Cross, LONDON


Tickets start a £15 and are on sale now.

If you are interested in hosting a gig with some of the fantastic musicians on the train tour in an interesting location during one of their stops, please contact


Photo of Krar Collective by Marcus Waterloo

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