Amadou Bagayako met Mariam Doubmia when they went to blind school together in Mali. At the time, he also played guitar for the Bamako hotel band Les Ambassadeurs. By 1980 they were married and they jointly chased for the unreachable goal. He adored John Lee Hooker and Jimi Hendrix, whilst she idolised Pink Floyd and James Brown. Together, they infused traditional Malian music with their western influences. The development was slow but sure, it wasn’t until 2003 that international attention beckoned. International superstar Manu Chao heard their early recordings and noted unassuming potential. He contacted the blind couple and set to work with them, resulting in their 2004 effort Dimanche a Bamako. This was swiftly followed by an unusual collaboration with German superstar Herbert Groenemeyer. Support slots for the Scissor Sisters followed suit and finally Amadou and Mariam met Blur’s Damon Albarn and released their critically acclaimed crossover album Welcome To Mali. The album took the relatively unknown pair and made them coffee shop music for the designer crowd to talk about. Mariam has even got to play with her idol Pink Floyd’s Dave Gilmour. They even had to fly in from an American support slot for Coldplay to play their headlining gig at Camden’s Roundhouse.
Closing with the rip-roaring “Sebeke” the duo slinked off-stage leaving screams for more.
Supported by the oddly chosen but very talented Charlie Winston, Amadou and Mariam slowly made their way on to the stage. “Do you feel alright?” came the question before they set about their inviting “Welcome To Mali”. Their arrival was met with rapturous applause leading into lots of hip swaying and head swaying. The Roundhouse was full to the brim and the crowd had to try their best to move to the infectious beats. The backdrop came alive with vibrant colours and dazzling patterns. The backing singers danced energetically and the musicians shone. “Africa” drove home the inane genius of the static duo. Despite all the happenings around them, it was hard to shift focus from the real stars of the night. As Amadou and Mariam gave only a brief insight to their back catalogue and current hits, the audience went wild. Current single “Masiteladi” worked the crowd into a fremzy. Mariam left a lot of the work to her husband Amadou. Her distinct vocal enriching the proceedings every time. Clearly edging to move, she swung with delight from side to side. Meanwhile, Amadou fed off the audience’s appreciation. With each song his performance grew more captivating. Boasting an impressive vocal and glorious guitar skills, he deserves his moment in the spotlight.
A surprise guest slot from 2005’s wonder kid, The Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart, received a tepid response. The seemingly shy Stodart lingered in the shadows as his soft soothing country serenade “I Believe In” met the raw riotous glory of the Malian maestros. It was an unusual duet that somehow worked. As he slinked off, the colours went wild and the crowd demanded more. Closing with the rip-roaring “Sebeke” the duo slinked off-stage leaving screams for more. Nothing more came and the audience made its way out the door, hungry for more musical genius.