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Music  >>  CDs  >>  International

Amadou & Mariam

Folila

Amadou & Mariam Folila
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The story of Folila—the word means ‘music' in Bambara—boasts three distinct chapters, and is a tale of how two records became one. Marc-Antoine Moreau, the duo's long-time manager and producer explains: "The original idea was to make two albums: One was going to be a crossover record made in New York City, where Amadou & Mariam have many musical friends and relationships; and the other was to be a more rootsy album recorded in Bamako with mostly African guests and African percussion instead of a drum kit."

Both plans came to fruition, but when Amadou & Mariam listened back to the richness of the two sessions, a third way suggested itself: to combine the two recordings in a seamless, organic fashion. The resulting work is an example of how tradition and modernity can work together to generate something new and unique.

CHAPTER ONE: December 2010. Amadou & Mariam arrive in New York City with a bunch of guitar-and-vocal song demos. They take up residence in the penthouse of Cooper Square Hotel. It's an ideal base in which to relax and limber up for three weeks of intensive sessions at Downtown Studios, where they are joined by a procession of friends and collaborators.

An early arrival is Santigold, a big fan of Amadou & Mariam, who invited the couple to play at her wedding three years earlier. (Sadly, a prior engagement kept them from doing so). This time there were no calendar clashes, and Santigold co-wrote and lent vocals to the trance-like "Dougou Badia." She also brought along Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, who proved, throughout the session, a fine foil for Amadou's bluesy guitar playing.

Then came Tunde Adebimpe and Kyp Malone of TV On The Radio, whose voices flowed effortlessly into "Wily Kitaso." Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters, whom Amadou & Mariam memorably supported on a 2007 UK tour, lent his distinctive high voice to the uplifting "Metemeya." The British singer Ebony Bones, whom Amadou & Mariam met on an Africa Express outing, helped create a thrilling mix of Congolese rock ‘n' roll and tribal electronic music on "C'est Pas Facile Pour Les Aigles." Theophilus London, who had remixed the Damon Albarn-produced track "Sabali," from Amadou & Mariam's 2009 album Welcome To Mali, came by to rap on "Nebi Miri."

CHAPTER TWO: It might have ended there, but back in the Malian capital of Bamako in the autumn of 2010, Amadou & Mariam took the same bunch of songs into the Manjul studio and re-recorded them, with the same tuning and tempo, in quite a different fashion: with African musicians, including the percussionists Vieux et Boubacar Dembélé on doumdoums and djembes; bassist Yao Dembélé; Bassekou Kouyaté and his hypnotic ngoni; keyboard player Idrissa Soumaoro; and Touareg guest Abdallah Oumbadougou, who added his snaking, desert blues guitar lines to "Bagnale." Into this African musical summit stepped Bertrand Cantat, former singer of the French rock band Noir Desir. His voice, his guitar and harmonica permeate tracks such as "Africa Mon Afrique" and "Mogo."

CHAPTER THREE: Paris, 2011. Amadou & Mariam find themselves in their second home with two albums. It is impossible to choose between them, and so the answer becomes obvious: the two belong together in a new and rich musical concoction, ancient and modern; retro and futuristic; organic and electronic. To realize this vision, Marc-Antoine Moreau (friend, manager and producer since the duo's 1998 international debut Sou Ni Tilé) and several skilled mixing engineers are brought in, including Danger Mouse cohort Kennie Takahashi, Renaud Letang, Josh Grant and Antoine Halet.
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