It’s a spectacular collection; I’m not the only listener who would make sure I had it with me on a trip that might see me stranded on a deserted island.
They followed it up with Welcome to Mali, less local, more slickly produced, easy to love.
And now they’ve released “Folila,” which means “music” in the Bambara language. It’s got a lot of hip international names that matter to those who follow hip international musicians, and it has a lot of different colors and textures, and a big fuss is being made over it on NPR and The New York Times and other high-toned media. [To buy the CD from Amazon, click here. For the MP3 download, click here.]
I wish I loved it more.
This is not to say I don’t love it a lot. I do. Especially at the beginning and the end. But in the middle are a few songs that are just ..busy. I feel awful saying this, for Amadou is the unacknowledged greatest-guitarist-on-the-planet and Mariam’s voice can shatter glass --- criticizing them may suggest nothing more than that they’re too good for me. In which case, I’m rather like Emperor Joseph II, in “Amadeus,” telling Mozart: “Your work is ingenious. It's quality work. And there are simply too many notes, that's all. Just cut a few and it will be perfect.”
Last year, Amadou and Mariam had an amazing idea --- a series of concerts performed in the dark. A genius idea, really, for they are both blind. As Amadou explained:
If you cannot see, your sense of sound becomes richer. You appreciate the qualities of sound. That’s one reason I wanted to have a series of concerts in the darkness. I wanted the audiences to try to hear the music just as Mariam and I hear it.
Regular readers know I’m always saying: Listen in the dark. Some of that is code for “Other things are happening in the room, yes? This is mood music, right?” But a lot of it is exactly Amadou’s reason: You’ll hear more.
Well, close your eyes and start here:
And then try this:
Hear the hip international stars? I don’t. Because they don’t matter. The overwhelming authenticity and quality of the music of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia overwhelm everything in their path --- including my modest resistance.