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Welcome to Mali

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  • Amadou & Mariam Release "Mali Meets Latin America" EP, Launch North American Tour

    Amadou & Mariam release the digital EP Mali Meets Latin America in the US today as the Malian duo prepares to kick off a North American summer tour at Bonnaroo this weekend. The EP features remixes of four tracks from their 2012 album Folila by artists from Buenos Aires (Frikstailers and King Coya, aka Gaby Kerpel) and Bogotá (Bomba Estéreo and Sidestepper) and was inspired by the couple’s first visit to perform in Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina in 2012, when they met several of the producers featured on this collection.

  • Luminato Line-Up Includes Free Sets from Bombino, Amadou & Mariam, Laurie Anderson, Carolina Chocolate Drops

    The line-up for the 2013 Luminato Festival in Toronto has been announced, and included among this year’s performers are Bombino, Amadou & Mariam, Laurie Anderson, and Carolina Chocolate Drops. All of these artists will give free concerts in David Pecaut Square at the Hub of the Festival, which runs from June 14 to 23. Among the Luminato Festival’s other highlights will be a multi-artist, two-night tribute to Joni Mitchell at Massey Hall.

About this Album

Singer Mariam Doumbia and guitarist/vocalist Amadou Bagayoko met more than 30 years ago at the Institute for Young Blind People in Bamako, the capital of Mali, and they've been performing as a duo for almost as long. For years, they've been stars in West Africa and in France, where they now have a home. But that turned out to be just the start for them. Following the release of their 2005 Nonesuch debut, Dimanche à Bamako, the middle-aged, married pair was embraced by a new, multi-generational audience in the US and in the UK. They were welcomed at indie rock-leaning festivals like Lollapalooza, Coachella, and Glastonbury and have been asked to tour with such artists as former Blur front-man Damon Albarn, on his itinerant revue, Afrika Express; the Scissor Sisters, on a series of English dates; and Coldplay, who've chosen the couple as the opener for their spring '09 US dates. Welcome to Mali, the duo's adventurous second Nonesuch disc, illustrates why. The album's double-LP vinyl release also includes the complete album on CD and MP3.

Amadou & Mariam start with distinctly Malian ingredients: lively call-and-response vocals and blues-based rhythms that can be compellingly trancelike on the slower tracks and irresistibly danceable on the faster ones. From there—and this is where the fun begins—anything goes. Opening track “Sabali,” co-written by and co-produced with longtime champion Albarn, highlights Mariam’s almost otherworldly vocals, layered on top of swirling keyboards and vocoder-altered background voices, as if ABBA had been remixed by Gorillaz. On “Africa,” English-speaking rapper K’Naan, a Somalian native now based in Toronto, trades rhymes with Amadou, who sings in French; in the lyrics, the contours of the African continent are re-imagined as the curves of a woman, and K’Naan details his erotic journey around them. “Masiteladi,” a collaboration with the popular Parisian rocker Mathieu Chedid (known in France simply as “M”), features fuzz-toned guitar solos and a propulsive arrangement that could be an alt-rock update of a mid-sixties Yardbirds classic.

“Djuru” showcases fellow Malian and kora master Toumani Diabate, who punctuates Mariam’s vocals with shimmering, harp-like riffs from his traditional instrument. The title track, with a guest turn from Nigerian guitarist Keziah Jones, is seventies-style blues-funk—think Billy Preston or Stevie Wonder—and that groove become even fiercer and faster on the subsequent “Batoma.” “I Follow You (Nia Na Fin),” on the other hand, is unabashedly sentimental pop, a love letter to Mariam, sung by Amadou in English and sweetened with piano and strings.

Welcome to Mali boasts a freewheeling cosmopolitanism. The duo recorded it, with longtime producer and manager Marc-Antoine Moreau, over a 12-month period in Paris, London, Dakar, and Senegal. The album reflects the friendships they made, and the collaborations they initiated, during their travels. Amadou remarks, "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. This album is the result of those meetings and opportunities. It continues what we've been doing for a long time, but it's a development too."

As Amadou explained to a reporter from The Independent in London, where the album was released in late ’08 to rave reviews, Welcome to Mali is "not just new but different. Before, people used to say we were blues-rock. The new album is much more rock than blues. But the music is still very African, in its inspiration, in its rhythms." It’s a natural approach for the couple. Amadou says, “The sound of rock, and especially British rock, has always been in our heads. When we were kids in Bamako, we listened to Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones. To us it didn't sound British, it sounded African."

In a five-star review, London’s Observer Music Monthly has said, “Welcome to Mali will be appreciated by millions; not as ‘world music’ but as the product of an authentically global pop phenomenon”; London's Sunday Mirror declares: "African pop doesn't get any more effervescent and joyful." MOJO, Uncut, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, Time Out London, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph, and others in the British press have responded with equal excitement.

As a teenage guitarist during the '70s, the gifted Amadou played with the popular West African band, Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako. Mariam, meanwhile, sang at weddings and other traditional Malian festivals. They played their first concert as a duo in 1980 and later moved to Abidjan, capital of the neighboring Ivory Coast, where they began their recording career in 1986. By the late '90s, the couple was moving regularly between Bamako and Paris, where they signed to Universal and released the albums Sou Ni Ti (1998), Tje ni Mousso (1999), and Wati (2002). Most American listeners discovered Amadou & Mariam via the duo’s 2005 Nonesuch debut, Dimanche à Bamako, produced by the Paris-based world-music provocateur Manu Chao, who himself commands a large States-side following.

With Chao behind the wheel, Dimanche à Bamako was like a fast, bumpy taxi ride straight into the heart of the Malian capital. Cacophonous sounds from the streets mixed in with the spare, skittering rhythms of the songs. It felt thrillingly immediate, like the soundtrack to a jump cut-filled, color-saturated documentary. Though less high-concept than its predecessor, Amadou & Mariam’s latest effort is perhaps an even more authentic representation of who they are as songwriters and performers. All the exhilaration and sweat, the vocal interplay and guitar fire, of their live shows make it onto these beckoning tracks. On Welcome to Mali, the widely traveled pair extend an invitation to a place that’s more a state of mind than a spot on a map, and listeners from around the globe may find that it feels a lot like home.


Mariam Doumbia, lead vocals (1-5, 7, 9-15), backing vocals (5-7, 12, 13, 16)
Amadou Bagayoko, guitars (2-16), lead vocals (2, 4, 6-16), backing vocals (7, 13, 16)
Damon Albarn, programming, bass, backing vocals (1); keyboards (1, 2)
Antonia Pagulatos, Alice Pratlet, Kotono Sato, violins; Stella Page, Emma Owens, viola; Isabelle Dunn, cello; Al Mobbs, double bass (1)
Pape Niang, drums (2)
Yao Dembele, bass (2), programming (4), bass (4), keyboards (4), guitars (4)
Barry Sisters, backing vocals (2, 4, 8, 9, 11, 13, 14)
Boubacar Dembele, calebasse (3), balafon (3, 8), percussion/djembe (6, 8, 10, 13, 15), djembe (11, 14, 16)
Ibrahim Dembele dit Rasta, bass (3, 5, 9, 11)
Benogo Diakité, camel n’goni (3)
Alain Hatot, bass clarinet, turtle flute (3); saxophone (8, 9, 15)
Yvo Abadi, drums (4, 6, 8, 10, 12-16), percussion (11, 14), tambourine (12)
Fousene Sanogo, doum doum (5)
Idrissa Soumaoro, organ (5), keyboards (9), backing vocals (13)
Toumani Diabaté, kora (5)
Laurent Griffon, bass (6, 8, 10, 12-16)
Igor Nikitinski, keyboards (6-8, 14-16), organ (10)
Juan Carlos Gavrera, piano (6)
Juan Rozoff, guest vocal (6)
Patrice Renson, drums, percussion (7)
Matthieu Chedid, bass, guitar, backing vocals, guest vocal (7)
Michael Joussein, trombone (8, 9, 15)
K’naan, guest vocal (8)
Maxime Garoute, drums, percussion (9)
Keziah Jones, guest vocal (10), guitar (10, 13)
Laho Traore, drums (11)
Philippe Bresson, Rhodes (11), piano (11, 12)
Zoumana Téréta, "Suku" Malian violin (11, 16)
Nicolas Dautricourt, Estelle Villotte, violins (12, 13)
Noémie Boutin, cello (12, 13)
Benjamin Berlioz, double bass (12, 13)
Sonia Sala, backing vocals (12, 15)
Cheick Tidiane Sec, keyboards (13)
Tiken Jah Fakoly, guest spoken voice (16)

Album produced between September 2007 and July 2008
Produced by Marc Antoine Moreau and Laurent Jaïs, except track 1 by Damon Albarn, track 7 by Matthieu Chedid and Patrice Renson
Recorded and mixed by Laurent Jaïs assisted by Antoine Halet at La Partie Son (Davout), Paris; except track 1 recorded by Jason Cox at Studio 13, London, and at La Partie Son (Davout), Paris, and mixed by Jason Cox at Studio 13; tracks 3, 5, 9, 11 recorded at Studio Bogolan, Bamako, with additional recording at Studio Davout, Paris
Additional recording for track 2 at Studio 2000, Dakar; tracks 2, 8, 14 at Studio Moffou, Bamako; track 4 at Studio Yao, Paris; track 7 by Patrice Renson at Patrice Studio, Paris; track 10 at "Versailles" on the roof, Route de Guarantigui Bougou Bamako
Programming by Laurent Jaïs (2, 3, 5, 6, 9), Stephen Sedgwick (1)
Mastering by Tony Cousin at Metropolis Studio London

Damon Albarn appears courtesy of Parlophone
Tiken Jah Fakoly appears courtesy of Barclay / Universal Music France
K’naan appears courtesy of Direct Current Media
Keziah Jones appears courtesy of Because Music

Tracks 3, 5, 10, 14, written by Mariam Doumbia; 7, 9, 11-13 by Amadou Bagayoko; 1 by M. Doumbia, Marc Antoine Moreau / Damon Albarn; 2 by A. Bagayoko,  M.A. Moreau  / A. Bagayoko; 4 by A. Bagayoko / A. Bagayoko, Yao Tribert Dembele; 6 by A. Bagayoko, Jean Rosoff  / A. Bagayoko; 8 by A. Bagayoko, Warsame Keinan / A. Bagayoko; 15 by A. Bagayoko, M. Doumbia / A. Bagayoko; 16 (ghost track) by A. Bagayoko, Hamadoun Tandina / A. Bagayoko

Photos: Youri Lenquette
Design: Florian Chevillard


This album is available from Nonesuch in the United States only.

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