Latitude Day 1: Amadou & Mariam

There’s something vaguely ironic about a group from a predominantly arid country like Mali attracting a massive crowd because it starts raining. But Amadou & Mariam deserve nothing less. Over on the main stage, Franz Ferdinand are battling on as the rain gets steadily heavier.

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There’s something vaguely ironic about a group from a predominantly arid country like Mali attracting a massive crowd because it starts raining. But Amadou & Mariam deserve nothing less. Over on the main stage, Franz Ferdinand are battling on as the rain gets steadily heavier.



A good few of their audience, however, are speeding into the Uncut tent, where the blind Malian duo are just beginning to get into the swing of their set. If you’ve never come across Amadou & Mariam before, they’re a married couple who have taken the serpentine guitar lines and ecstatic chants of their indigenous music and given it a flash Parisian makeover.

On their last album, “Dimanche A Bamako” – which I believe sold more copies than pretty much any African record ever in Europe, possibly – their lovely tunes were occasionally smothered by the cosmopolitan over-production of Manu Chao.

It’s still pretty slick here, but the glorious songs and the amazing guitar playing of Amadou really come into focus. You can hear traces of the same Malian-blues crossover that fires up the mighty Tinariwen. But Amadou is a magnificently exuberant show-off, and one you suspect aspires to the sort of solo virtuosity of Eric Clapton rather than being measured against his Malian contemporaries.

It sounds a bit hairy, but trust me, it works. I’m always wary of that school of thought which demands African musicians should stay in some way culturally ‘unsullied’ by Western influence, even if I’m not always enamoured with the results. The great thing about Amadou & Mariam is that they basically make pop music which transcends any hoary and patronising concepts of ‘world’ music. A good way to end a weird but satisfying day, I reckon.

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