Friday, October 23, 2009

Magic Man And Woman

AMADOU & MARIAM – “The Magic Couple” CD ’09 (Wrasse, Mali) – I have to admit, I’m a rank amateur. Now wait a minute, I didn’t say I’m rank, although sometimes my wife and kids do say that. As in, I’ve just come in from mowing the lawn and I hear “Wow, Dad, you’re rank, take a shower!” No, I actually just did get out of the shower, thank you, so I’m most assuredly not rank. But I am a rank amateur when it comes to African music. I may know metal like the back of my hand, hard rock like a book, etc. But African music is something I’ve yet to really explore like the modern-day Leif Ericson that I am. So, when good ol’ buddy Racer from The Ripple Effect began to effuse praise for this release from AMADOU & MARIAM, my curiosity boiled over until I finally ran from the house and sped to the nearest music emporium to check it out for myself. I’m so glad I did!

To begin with, the 15 tracks here are culled from at least 3 different albums that AMADOU BAGAYOKO and MARIAM DOUMBIA (who fell in love many years ago, with music as the background) recorded during the period from 1997 through 2001 and released internationally. For me, however, this is undoubtedly a brand new, fresh and completely maiden voyage. And what a voyage it is! The CD opens with the pensive and hypnotic “Je Pense A Toi,” with it’s rhythmic percussion and trippy violin & guitar lines snaking smoothly in between the mantra-like vocals of AMADOU. From there, the upbeat and infectious “Sarama (La Charmante)” takes over, borne on MARIAM’s beautiful lead vocal. Over the fifteen songs present, the couple (along with their many musical compatriots) continue to weave a brand of music that is all things from soulful to dance-inducing to heart-rending. The common thread is that every single cut is bound together by a beauty and power that is rare in most forms of music I’ve listened to. Surprising to me (yet very welcome) are the aggressive guitar & rollicking harmonica of “Combattants,” the jaunty blues shuffle of “Chantez-Chantez” and the insistent rocking of “Poulo (Les Peuls).” Through it all, the vocals of AMADOU & MARIAM hold the listener’s ears in a cradle of comfort and yet stimulate constantly.

All in all, AMADOU & MARIAM’s “The Magic Couple” is a breath of fresh air for me as a listener but that’s not all. It’s also an education on music from an area of which I was unfamiliar and it made me realize just how little I know. At the same time, it was a reminder of how styles from all places can not only sit comfortably side-by-side but, in the right hands, can blend together in a wonderful tapestry of true “world” sounds. Most of all, “The Magic Couple” are just that: beautiful, powerful and magic. Rhythm In Their Voices

NOTE: A much more in-depth review by a buddy well-versed in African music can be read at:


Mark said...


I think it's very considerate of you include links to other sites and credit them for turning you on to music. Some other sites aren't nearly as classy and simply lift content without giving any credit or linkage at all!

raysrealm said...

Yeah, I've learned over time that it's not a competition or anything. Just about getting the word out there about the music, you know?