Amadou & Mariam have long cultivated a spirit of openness that they often put into practice with musicians from all backgrounds and styles. Their journeys have allowed the couple to forge lasting friendships. M. and Vincent Segal were their guests, Keziah Jones and K'naan also interacted, the Lebanese trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf and British guitarist Johnny Marr were invited to jam while Manu Chao and Damon Albarn produced them with skill. No doubt, the Malian couple's history is written in the plural suggestive of their affinities.
Their land, Mali, is currently one of the most attractive centers of globalized music. The couple still draws from their region's inspiration, a living spring they draw from beyond their region. Such is the strength of Folila, reflecting a growing openness to the world of music. The idea was to produce two albums: a crossover in New York, centered around meetings, and the other more roots in Bamako, with guests mainly African, says Marc-Antoine Moreau, their loyal manager and artistic director, with sound engineer Antoine Halet.
Stage one was recorded in three weeks at the Cooper Square Hotel, which accommodated multiple guests, including Santigold, who puts her voice on Dougou Badia. Tunde and Kyp, the two poets of the combo TV On The Radio, slide naturally on Wally Katasso, a ballad mixed by Keni Takamoto, the sound engineer for Danger Mouse. As for Theophilus London, the young poet prints a subtle flow of soul-jazz onto Nebe Meri, perfectly fitting with Amadou's blues accents.
Other esthete of great black music, Amp Fiddler brings some Detroit soul on Wari, before lending his keyboard lines onto Africa My Africa, boosted by Antibalas' section, the Afro-funk combo from Brooklyn, whose brass gleam here and there. As for Jake Shears, the soul of Scissor Sisters and a fan of the couple since a tour together in England, he served his high-pitched voice on the haunting disco blues of Metemya. Last but not least, Ebony Bones puts fire on C'est Pas Facile, a track that flirts with Congolese rumba and electro sounds.
During stage two of the process, it was back to Bamako, for another three-week session, this time in the studios of Manjul, a prominent rastaman installed in Mali. He has a clear idea: to use the same basic track, the same tempo, the same tones, but putting it into perspective with long-time friends, like the percussionist Boubacar DembelÉ and Yaho the totemic bassist, and guests.
Judge for yourself: Bassekou KouyatÉ and his ngoni, Idrissa Soumaoro on kamele ngoni, Toumani DiabatÉ on kora, Zu Tereta on monochord fiddle, Tuareg guitarist Abdallah Oumbadougou: all the best subtle strings of the universe are on this record. This album sounds at once organic and electronic, both roots and rock, both retro and futuristic, and totally unlike anything else.
1. Dougou Badia (feat. Santigold)
2. Wily Kataso (feat. Tunde & Kyp of TV On The Radio)
3. Oh Amadou (feat. Bertrand Cantat)
4. Metemya (feat. Jake Shears of Scissor Sisters)
5. Africa Mon Afrique (feat. Bertrand Cantat)
6. C'est Pas Facile Pour Les Aigles (feat. Ebony Bones)
7. Wari (feat. Amp Fiddler)
8. Nebe Miri (feat. Theophilus London)
9. Another Way (feat. Bertrand Cantat)
10. Bagnale (feat. Abdallah Oumbadougou)
11. Mogo (feat. Bertrand Cantat)
12. Sans Toi