Amadou & Mariam, Dimanche a Bamako

Sam Adams

By Sam Adams

on 07.21.11 in Reviews

Dimanche a Bamako

Amadou & Mariam

With their 2005 album, the Malian duo of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia vaulted out of the world music arena and into the mainstream, putting them on a road that eventually found them sharing stages with the likes of U2 and Coldplay. Omnivorous producer Manu Chao, who also wrote or co-wrote half of the album’s songs and sings on his several, makes his presence felt with touches like the ska horns on “Djanfa,” but the most important thing he brought to the table was his name, which was prominently featured in the cover art. Dimanche isn’t markedly more commercial, let alone Westernized, than the songs featured on Je pense à toi, but it took the reflected glare of Chao’s stardom to get people to hear what they’d been missing.

Practicing the unity they preach

Bagayoko and Doumbia, a married couple who met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, had been singing together for more than two decades before most of the English-speaking world, and their songs reach even further back, but they’re hardly traditionalists. Bagayoko has proclaimed his love for the guitar playing of Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, and traces of rock, soul, blues, jazz and even a smattering of hip-hop are woven into Dimanche‘s warp and weft. Practicing the unity they preach, they sing in French, English, Dogon and Wolof, among other European and African languages, but so deftly are their manifold sources blended that you’ve have to strain to discern them. Complicating matters, it’s virtually impossible to sit still while songs like “Beaux dimanches” or “La paix” are on the stereo, making in-depth study not only difficult but undesirable.