Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Wedded, blissful sounds out of Africa

Amadou & Mariam have sung with some of the biggest bands in the world

It is more than a decade since 'the blind couple of Mali', as Amadou and Mariam were initially marketed, came to prominence in Europe.

Since then they've sung with Coldplay and U2, Dave Gilmour and Johnny Marr and become the most successful musical export of their continent this century. According to Damon Albarn, who produced one of the songs on their last album: "I don't think there's ever been a band from Africa with whom people have engaged in quite such a way."

The husband and wife duo sing along to Amadou's electric blues guitar to create an extraordinary sound. It's one they've created for many years. They met at Mali's only school for the blind. Amadou lost his sight as a teenager, while Mariam's blindness was a consequence of catching measles when she was just five. They're certainly unusual in the world of music, but Mariam insisted they were more than a novelty act.

"People know we are blind, but it is our work – it is what we do – that counts most to them. People are surprised by the quality of our music, and the way we are able to play with other musicians – that is what amazes them. It helps them realise that whether you are blind or not, you can work, you can make music."

Amadou recalled how, as a young boy, his failing sight meant that he wasn't allowed to join the annual fishing festival with his schoolmates. Two local musicians invited him to join them, and when the townsfolk heard the three playing, they offered them part of their catch.

"I got more than my schoolmates had got by fishing," he said. "A voice inside me said: 'Amadou, your illness prevented you going into the water. But your music got you more fish'.''

Mariam made her first recording at the age of 22 in 1980, the year she and the 26-year-old Amadou married.

They released a number of cassettes, and their popularity slowly spread across west Africa. In 1996 they moved to Paris and recorded their first album outside Africa.

The new album, Folila, which translates as 'Music' ("We slightly ran out of inspiration," said Moreau) was recorded in Rome, Paris, New York and Bamako, and features the Scissor Sisters, TV On The Radio, Santigold and French singer Bertrand Cantat.

If you haven't heard this pair sing, don't miss this chance. The warm sun of Mali is about to shine on wet, grey Belfast for a couple of hours. Wear shades.

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest Entertainment News

Latest Music News

Latest Film & TV News

Latest Eating Out News

Horoscopes

Your Horoscopes by Russell Grant

Leo:

Making repairs to your home will be engrossing. You love finding ways to recycle old materials and preserve stylish details. If you don't own your place, think about buying one. You can get very generous terms from a bank or lending institution. Having a steady job can strengthen your application. Ask your employer to write you a reference. Are all the homes in your area outside your price range? Think about taking advantage of a government program tailored towards people in your situation.More