Amadou & Mariam
The musical spaces defined by this simple duo, it turned out, could be filled in with a great variety of rhythms--African drumming in several styles, the ethnic-electronic rhythm tracks of French star Manu Chao (who produced the duo's 2004 breakthrough album Dimanche a Bamako), the nu-disco of Scissor Sisters, and a bevy of collaborators from the rock world who hitched their stars to this pair of singers whose difficult lives seemed to have been musically boiled down to a kind of alchemical beauty and warmth that transformed any ingredients it touched. Beginning with an appearance at Mali's Festival in the Desert in 2004, they played international venues of steadily increasing size. They opened for Coldplay, then U2, and sang at Barack Obama's Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Lately they've been involved with musical efforts to tamp down the violent conflict that has torn up their once peaceful country.
Only in the monoglot United States have they been somewhat less than blockbusters, but they're coming on strong here, with shows buoyed by the sense of flamboyant command that marks many of the great African performers. Now, fresh off the release of an EP of Latin techno remixes of some of their songs, they come to the Power Center on July 2 as part of the Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
[Originally published in July, 2013.]