x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Amadou & Mariam: Folila

The Parisian duo's signature intertwined voices and sonorous, sinewy, fingerpicking guitar will enthrall.

Amadou & Mariam
Folila
(Nonesuch)
****

Beloved all over the world, particularly among fellow musicians, the Paris-based Malian husband-and-wife duo Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia have spent the past decade skilfully insinuating their lilting, highly flexible, West African blues-pop sound into the global mainstream. Their 2008 album, Welcome to Mali, was co-produced by Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame. Since then they have opened for U2 and Coldplay and recorded collaborations with a host of left-field New York rockers. Those recordings form the core of this seventh album, a multicultural mash-up which is not always cohesive but never sounds too contrived, either. The US singer Santigold and the guitarist Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lend some snarly indie-rock attitude to the bluesy thunder of Dougia Bada, while Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters brings a warm blast of disco-gospel sunshine to the funky, fluid groove of Mtemya. But the most surprising guest star here is the controversial French rocker Bertrand Cantat, who was jailed for the violent manslaughter of his actress girlfriend Marie Trintignant in 2003. His involvement may be morally questionable but Cantat's parched, ragged croak actually adds an agreeably soulful edge to the gently rolling Oh Amadou, the brassy big-band groove of Africa Mon Afrique and the tender, elegiac song Mogo. But while the guest spots vary in quality, from sublime to superfluous, the best tracks here are still those featuring just Amadou and Mariam. With their signature intertwined voices and sonorous, sinewy, fingerpicking guitar, Sans Toi and Cherie are both lovely and life-affirming.