A Slice of Fried Gold

Music Mondays

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recommendation: Amadou et Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako

It seems kind of strange to review an album that's almost four years old on here, but it's kind of hard to ignore when I enjoy the album as much as I do.

When researching for my "Best of 2009" albums list, I kept coming across world music artist Amadou et Mariam. Every site I would look at would highlight their new album and rave about it, and Metacritic had it perched up near the top of their assembled scoring for albums in 2008. From what I could tell, it was the bomb diggity, so to speak. But I passed, as I scoffed and said "world music isn't for me."


A couple months later, I relented and downloaded their album. I listened to it once. Glorious! I was hooked! Next thing you know I was listening to it while working, while driving, while exercising, while reading...you name it. I was listening to it. This album was fantastic. "I'm going to have to write about this!" I thought. Then, while I was looking up info on them, I found out the album I had acquired was actually an older album by them, and I had never actually heard their new one.

Double oops.

Oh well, what are you going to do. Whatever album it is, it's some of the most catchy and fun music around, being a fusion of every genre of music known to man, with the most frequent elements coming from reggae, latin, and jazz influences. I have no idea what they are saying, as I believe it's in French, but it doesn't even matter. It's just remarkably inventive and incredibly well crafted, with all 15 tracks being absolute delights.

I think it kind of goes back to part of the reason why I loved Vampire Weekend's debut album so much - it reminds me of Paul Simon's Graceland so much. Obviously, African music and the burgeoning afro rock genre was of great influence on Simon's album, and this album is a fantastic musical representation of that same genre, except a lot more eclectic and with many other influences. But the Graceland feel is there enough to perpetually remind me of Simon, and that's enough to kick this album up a notch with a blast of pure, unadultered nostalgia.

However, if you're not a fan of that album, don't worry. This is just a really fun album for fans of music, as at its heart it's brilliant pop music from another part of the globe. Plus, Amadou and Mariam have an incredible story, as they're a blind couple from Mali who met at Mali's Institute for the Young Blind who pursued living off doing what they love, and doing it well. You owe it to them to at least give them a chance. Not to mention, when they blow up after opening for Coldplay all summer you can say "I've been listening to these guys for a while now."

And who doesn't love saying that every once in a while?

Amadou et Mariam - Dimanche a Bamako: A-


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