36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2005
It is our understanding that Amadou & Mariam, a married couple, both blind, from Mali have been recording for several decades and are stars in West Africa. We found our way to this cd because it was produced by and with Manu Chao-polyglot, multiculturist, musical collagist, kitchen-sink artist, and creator of one of the more smile-inducing albums of the past 5 years, `Proximo Estacion: Esperanza'. As much as we like that cd and find our way back to it every so often, this one may be better. We have always enjoyed the rhythms, the power and the sheer ebullience of African music, unadulterated, usually, due to our inability to understand the words. Amadou & Mariam, with the madcap inspiration of Mr. Chao, provide those virtues in spades on `Dimanche a Bamako'. The cd is a delightful mish-mash of tempos, beats, styles, cultural influences, languages, and musical sounds. It is a constant kick to be struck by an element-crowd noise, a police siren, mariachi horns (placed there, presumably, by Chao)-and find it the perfect choice. The songs are rife with riffs, catchy, joyful, and danceable. Chao was evidently unable to contain himself enough to remain behind the boards and joins the couple in front of the microphone on several tracks, to the benefit of the record. If you enjoy world music, especially African, we highly recommend this cd. And, if somehow you have not exposed yourself to African music before, this is a sure-fire place to start.
39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Modern African pop that'll really bend your ears sideways. What's most striking about this album is its remarkable tonal and textural palatte; producer and co-performer Manu Chao brings a powerful technical proficiency to bear, capturing and isolating individual sound sources and giving each element a distinctive coloration and feel. Rather than use studio multi-tracking to create the illusion of an organic live performance, Chao opts to use technology as an instrument in itself, a tool to amplify and expand the group's stylistic depth and variety... While the results may initially feel a bit rigid or overly artificial, bit by bit the underlaying fluidity of the music will begin to assert itself, and the album will win you over. Amadou and Mariam's earlier albums have all had a peculiar magical appeal, but Chao's inventive, kaleidoscopic production nudges their brand of Malian pop into new directions... This album will doubtless get great press and blow a lot of people's minds: this time you can believe the hype and check it out... It's pretty cool.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
"World music" has been the lazy moniker used in the US for any artist making music outside the dominion of the American-based recording industry. Unfortunately that's why a talented duo like Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia is unlikely to find themselves in the commercial mainstream here despite having a recording career that extends back three decades. They have a fascinating story behind them - both were blind students at Bamako's Institute for Young Blind People in Mali, who shared a passion for their native music. They married, started touring any venue in their part of the world and extending to European stops, all the while incorporating musical cues from the various locales into their compositions.
Their latest disc is an intoxicating blend of West African traditional sounds and a more European-style beat consciousness. The latter is due primarily to their association with Manu Chao, the eclectic French-Latin alternative music star, who helped with production duties. Both Amadou and Mariam are pleasing vocalists who perform the mostly French lyrics with aplomb. Several tracks showcase their melding beautifully - "La Fête Au Village" and "Beaux Dimanches" (with its mournful trumpet) have actual village sounds providing the background to the rhythmic music, and with its slightly dated siren samples and heavy use of organ, "La Réalité" has a reggae flavor that casts a spell. The harmonies, however, often take a backseat to Amadou's dexterous skill as a guitarist, especially as he attacks Dick Dale-style on the introduction to "Coulibaly" and strums sweetly on "Politic Amagni".
The standout performances here are the chaotic, harmonica-driven "Sénégal Fast Food", the multi-layered urban soundscape "Taxi Bamako", and the disc's centerpiece, "M'bifé", which they perform in three distinctly different versions - first as a plaintive folk song over exotic-sounding stringed instruments and a thumping bass, then as a more percolating reflection of the disc's borderless rhythms, and as the closing track with a spoken word track that deepens the lovelorn nature of the song. There are some less successful, out-of-left-field tracks, for example, "Gnidjougouya", which seems more heavily influenced by Indian rhythms to reflect the lyrics that speak of abandonment. Regardless, this is a fine disc that has crossover possibilities with the often thrilling sounds produced by not only Amadou and Mariam but Manu Chao as well.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Do you like music that makes you happy?
I don't mean moderately happy, 7.5 on a scale of 10, isn't it a great day happy, kind of sort of happy.
I mean ecstatic, get up and dance happy, throw caution to the winds and kiss a stranger happy, pump up the volume and wake your neighbors happy, see yourself realizing all your dreams happy.
That happiness is commercially available. It's even legal. You can get a preview of it by jumping on the video of "La Realite" (below). You can just trust me that this is a CD you absolutely cannot go on living without and click and have these sounds for your very own in a matter of days. Or, if you are weary of hype, you can resist until I Make the Case.
Okay, here's the case:
Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia are from Mali. They met in the 1970s, married in 1980 and started performing together. Like their fellow musicians from Mali --- I'm thinking of Ali Farka Toure and Boubacar Traore --- they started with their country's version of the blues. Along the way, they went international and borrowed from cultures as diverse as Cuba and France. And they became very popular indeed.
Small fact: They're blind. Both of them. And possessed of the unusual joy that is the special province of some of the unsighted (see Jacques Lusseyran's jaw-dropping World War II memoir, And There Was Light).
In 2003, Amadou and Mariam hooked up with Manu Chao. This is major, for Chao is a world music god everywhere but in America. The reason for that is somewhat predictable: Chao is unabashedly political. Many of his lyrics are about poverty and oppression, his music is based on local folk music, and underneath it is usually a bouncy punk beat. (In 1994, he bought a train in Colombia, assembled a traveling circus and traveled the country, stopping in villages to perform. "People coming to the show, they all had a gun," he has recalled. "But we went through with no problem. That was our little victory.")
Chao not only produced "Dimanche a Bamako," he co-authored some of the songs, and sang and played guitar as well. But it's as a producer that he shines brightest. Almost every song has a killer beat, and on top of that he layers street sounds, harmonies from anywhere (this CD starts with a cross between 1960s hootenany and 1950s doo-wop), and on top of all that are Amadou and Mariam, who would be offended if they were ever described as less than "hypnotic."
"Dimanche à Bamako" was a huge hit in France, where it won a Les Victoires de la Musique award (the French Grammy). Just from "La Realite" --- the song I'm playing over and over --- I can understand why. The music has police whistles, xylophone, sirens, cheering crowds, a Tex-Mex organ and a beat that pounds disco right through the wall into reggae's yard. And the lyrics (in French) have a brilliantly calibrated mix of rebel politics, weary philosophy and, finally, a command to get out of the chair:
Ups and downs
It is life in this world
While some are being born
Others are dying
And while some are laughing others are crying
Ups and downs
It is life in this world
Some have work while others are out of work
Then it must be that while some are sleeping
Others are keeping the watch
It is the sad reality
But...let us dance together
Exciting? Thrilling? As the distinguished English critic Charlie Gillett has written, "There are going to be many people who will find they have three copies of this album by the end of this year: one that they bought themselves, the other two given by people who'll say 'I heard this and thought this is the kind of thing you like.' And there will be people who will themselves have bought three or four copies to give to friends, saying, 'I know you've sworn you'll never like an album not in English, but this is the one to win you over.'"
I'll say it more bluntly: This is pure joy, suitable for every occasion. To turn away from "Dimanche a Bamako" is to choose to live a diminished life. I beg you: Don't miss this one.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on August 11, 2005
The reviews for this album are all over the web and i have yet to see one that doesnt praise. The marriage of Amadou and Mariam's w. african/malian style with the rythm and pop sense of Manu Chao makes for tunes that get stuck in your head and continuially weave in and out of your brain. Listen a few times and you're hooked. The vocals are beautiful, the guitar solos are serpentine and the rythms engaging.
I had the import before it was available in the us. It is certainly now receiving the attention it deserves from the critics!! The album has already won the equivalent of a grammy in France.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 20, 2005
Manu Chao somewhat overshadows this production by the excellent husband and wife team of Amadou and Miriam. While at most times his production flourishes invigorate these procedings, the canned village noises detract. It's not a live disc -- so it doesn't benefit from crowd noise. It becomes very much a manneristic production piece, not the more organic outpouring that was "Tje Ni Mousso."
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on August 13, 2005
I heard this album in a Senegalese restaurant in San Francisco and was enchanted right away. I hunted for this album for 2 months finally getting it here all I can say it was well worth the wait. The production value that Manu Chao brought to the stirring vocals of Amadou and Mariam are amazing mix. Especially Gnidjougouya. One of my favorite songs
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 23, 2006
This is a GREAT CD, the music is wonderful, inventive, different and amazingly engaging. I've had it on repeat play for days. Mariam's voice and the guitar work is outstanding. I recommend it. If you love West African music, you'll love this. If you want to try West African music, Dimanche a Bamako is a great start.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2006
Distinctly West African in its light charm. But great variation across tracks, almost as though produced by a collective with lots of room for different people to lead. Typically transparently layered with varying mixes of polyrhythms, harder Western grooves, and many different special effects. The influence of rap and reggae is apparent throughout. Sung mainly in clear French, but in African languages, too. General mood is happy and light. But stories about politics and society weave throughout like a kind of reporting. Children pop everywhere in many guises. Not at all what I expected (something closer to Afrobeat) from all the hype.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 2005
Wow this is good. Malians Amadou and Mariam get a workover from French wizard Manu Chao and deliver something quite stunning. Crossover, fusion, whatever you want to call it. Damned good would suffice.
The CD is constantly accompanied by "noises off" which are presumably the sounds of Bamako on a Sunday afternoon (judging by the title), over the top of which our two blind heroes deliver some stonking rhythmns wrapped up in subtly cosmopolitan arrangements that accentuate that peerless, trademark Mali guitar sound.
Listen to "Senegal Fast Food" and try not to smile. Impossible.
Chao's brilliant production chucks in all kinds of other wonderful colour and flavour, with a real Heinz 57 of styles and licks and riffs. As usual with just about anything from Mali however, the glorious guitar still permeates everything.
Great album, not to be missed.