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Album review: Amadou & Mariam's 'Folila'

April 9, 2012 |  9:46 pm


Referred to throughout Africa as the Blind Couple of Mali, this veteran husband-and-wife duo had a mainstream hit in France in 2005 with "Dimanche à Bamako," produced by the French-Spanish pop star Manu Chao; three years later the couple recruited Damon Albarn (of Blur and Gorillaz) to oversee "Welcome to Mali" and then toured with Coldplay.

The artistic expansion continues on "Folila" with guest vocal appearances by a host of American hipster faves, including ascendant indie rapper Theophilus London and avant-pop magpie Santigold. (Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs plays electric guitar on several cuts.) A few of these collaborations yield fruit tastier than what Amadou & Mariam cultivate on their own: "Wily Kataso," with Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio, rides a soulful groove embroidered with the men’s eerie harmonies, while "Metemya" gets an unexpected spritz of disco energy from Scissor Sisters frontman Jake Shears.

But as often as not here Amadou & Mariam seem crowded out of their own music, as in "Africa Mon Afrique," where keyboards by Amp Fiddler and horns by members of Brooklyn’s Antibalas create a jumble of flavors in place of the couple’s careful blend.


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--Mikael Wood

Amadou & Mariam
Two and a half stars (out of four)