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The Magic Couple ()

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The Malian duo Amadou & Mariam Bagayoko, who both hail from Bamako, have become a world music sensation since they began incorporating other traditions, from blues and funk to soul, and even gypsy and rock sounds into their traditional pentatonic scale-based Bamako sound. They sing together and separately (but are best together) in three African languages and French. They are best known in North America for the albums Dimanche a Bamako, recorded in 2008 and 2009's Welcome to Mali, with guests including Toumani Diabaté, Damon Albarn, and Keziah Jones. That said, The Magic Couple is a jam-packed, 15-track compilation on Wrasse, that offers a solid representation of at the albums that made them international stars: 1999's Sou Ni Tile, 2000's Tje Ni Mousso, and 2002's international smash Wati. Newer listeners will find in these early tracks that the sound of this duo -- which incorporates literally dozens of players on everything from horns to quanouns, djembes, violins, harmonicas, tamas, Rhodes and Wurlitzer pianos, B-3 organs, and numerous flutes, though Amadou's snaky Malian guitar is everywhere, slithering and slipping through these songs -- creates an equally celebratory and incantatory effect, fully developed from the inset. No matter what instruments, musics, or ambiences are woven into the mix, their sound is unmistakably trademarked by their raw but beautiful vocals -- especially Mariam's-- and Amadou's guitar (which was undoubtedly influenced by Ali Farka Touré, but takes that tradition to the next level of evolution). All the cuts here were self-penned, and the sense of timeless folk tradition as it meets both the Modern Eastern and Western worlds is as intoxicating -- perhaps more so -- than on their later recordings. For anyone who's only heard the later records, or is interested in 21st century African music for that matter, The Magic Couple is a must. ~ Thom Jurek, Rovi Hide synopsis

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