Never have I ever head such a universally positive reaction to a band we were going to feature as with Amadou and Mariam. Literally every person who heard their name cross my lips or my keyboard reacted to the effect of “THEY ARE AMAZING!” or “I AM OBSESSED WITH THEM”. And it is easy to see why. The (blind) Mali duo, who have love and joy oozing out of their every pore and note, has been making music for 30+ years (first apart and then once they found each other, together forever) and count as their fans everyone from Manu Chao to Damon Albarn (who produced “Sabali”)
to Pitchfork who could not help but swoon over Mariam’s falsetto vocals and intricate keyboard work of Amadou. It is both the unlikeliest and most likely success music story of this decade (because quality always finds its way to the top, right?right.) and they are @Birchmere today and seriously don’t miss them.
We caught them for 10 minutes or so in between them filming their Jimmy Fallon stint and performing @ Webster hall and asked a few questions.
What was it like the very first time you two met?
We met at the blind institute of Bamako. Mariam was a signing teacher. She sang very, very well. It was very nice to met her there !
Did either of you predict the immense success you’d have internationally?
Of course no.
Your songs are primarily written in French, but you’ve also done some things in English, like “I Follow You”. Could you talk a little about the decision behind that? Do you think it makes a difference to your audiences what language your songs are written in?
We write all our songs in our mother tongue, Mali’s national idioma, the bambara. We leave some of those songs in that language. Sometimes we translate in French, and for “i follow you” we tried it in English. We think when people understand the lyrics it’s nicer for them cause you can understand and sing them easier.
Did either of you have any different career ambitions when you were kids, or did you just always know you wanted to pursue music?
Yes, we always dreamt of that. Both of us.
Obviously you’re a long way from Mali. Is there anything in particular that you get homesick for while you’re on tour?
Sometimes we could get homesick of course. We miss our people, friends and families especially.
On that same note, is there anything you’ve found from your travels to be a huge culture shock?
In radio and tv shows, there’s some subject that are discussed in public. I’m thinking about sexuality for example. We don’t have that at home. We are much more reserved.
What were the best and worst shows you ever played?
Best concert : Transmusicales de Rennes in France in 1998. Our first show in the Western world !
Our worst concert was in Ivory Coast in 1986. We were not known and only 2 persons were in the audience. After the show we forgot the guitar in the taxi!
Well, we hope tonight’s show @ Birchmere will be one of the highlights to be talked about in the future