Amadou & Mariam
for the Young Blind, where Amadou became leader of the school's orchestra and Mariam was its lead singer. They fell in love, married, and took off on a tour of West Africa's musical capitals--Lagos, Abidjan, Conakry--in search of fame and fortune.
From the start Amadou & Mariam had something distinctive, and their music circulated widely on cassettes. The music of Mali, from centuries-old story songs accompanied by the twenty-one-string kora to modern pop, has a mysterious ability to blend with other traditions without losing its own distinctive qualities, and Amadou & Mariam forged a blend that looked outward to the whole world. Their square, short-phrased African tunes, often sung in harmony, were supported by Amadou's electric guitar, speaking in Caribbean, American psychedelic, and James Brown-style funk accents. At first they sang mostly in African languages, but, when they began to use French more often (translating songs from their native Bambara), their cassettes gained cachet in France itself.