Together as a musical entity since 1980, three years after they met at the Institute for the Young Blind in Bamako, Amadou & Mariam have slowly gained an audience outside West Africa since achieving major label status in 1998. I have to admit to finding their work up to this point a little monochrome, but suddenly they're in Technicolor courtesy of Manu Chao, who here takes on the role of producer.
At first listen and especially on the instrumental "M'Bife Balafon" this could almost be Chao's long awaited third solo album. Certainly, the way the French public have lapped it up adds to that impression. But despite a generous sprinkling of his trademarks (frequent backing and lead vocals, the cop car siren on "La Réalité", a vibrant skanking strum on "Camions Sauvages" and the general sense of momentum created by judicious segueing throughout, to name a few), it's very much an Amadou & Mariam record.
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