Amadou & Mariam, the husband-and-wife musical duo (perhaps the Paul and Linda McCartney of Mali?), have been playing music together for decades since they first met at the Institute for the Young Blind in Mali. Their music is definitely rooted in African styles, but such term would be limiting, as they also use a range of instruments characteristic to different parts of the world, such as the Indian tabla.Their 2005 album Dimanche a Bamako was produced by Manu Chao and earned them much recognition within the world music community, even winning them the BBC Award for world music in 2006.
Also in 2006, they recorded the FIFA World Cup anthem, “Celebrate the Day” along with German musican Herbert Grönemeyer.
However, this week’s pick has nothing to do with either of these feats, but rather with their fifth album, Welcome to Mali, released in 2008 (or 2009 if you’re in the U.S.). The entire album is simply amazing, but I want to draw your attention to the opening track, “Sabali.” Quite unlike anything else on the CD, this song was listed as #249 in Pitchfork Media’s Top 500 Tracks of the 2000s. To find out why, give it a listen:
Sabali – Amadou & Mariam
Electronics-heavy, the focus of the song is on sung vocals over a simple enough chord progression that gets more complicated as the synthesizers take over and hypnotize. The beginning of the bilingual track is sung in Bambara, a West African language used my most Malians, while the spoken bit at the end is in French, Mali’s official language. “Sabali” means “patience” in Bambara, with the duo telling their audience, “If you love someone, patience is everything.” The French vocals are flirtatious, with the speaker telling her lover that she will give him a big kiss and telling him that with him, life is beautiful.