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Amadou and Mariam: New York, NY August 4, 2012

Emilie Pons By

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Amadou and Mariam
Central Park SummerStage
New York, NY
August 4, 2012

Amadou and Mariam celebrate music, love and togetherness. There is something magical and unusual about seeing two talented blind singers perform together on stage in front of a huge crowd in Central Park. And, clearly, Amadou and Mariam have a lot of fans. On Saturday August 4, 2012, the Malian couple performed for Central Park SummerStage, which, like the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn, with the BRIC Arts Program, offers a wonderful array of concerts every single summer. The couple performed after Just a Band and Theophilus London.

Central Park was a little haven of nature within the city, where the show blended reggae, rock and African tunes, sounds, melodies, rhythms and harmonies. African music might be exotic to an American audience, but the talent of the Malian couple was unquestionable. They had a unique sense of rhythm (although the drums' style felt a little harsh and lacked subtlety for someone with a jazz sensibility), and their melodies were thoughtful. The couple was accompanied by bassist Christophe Tribet, percussionist Boubacar Dembele, keyboardist Charles-Frederik Avot and drummer Yves Abadi.

Guitarist/vocalist Amadou and singer Mariam's music was a mix of African music and more modern stuff since they were using an electric bass as well as a synthesizer. This eclectic fusion was reminiscent of singer/guitarist Bombino from Niger. After Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, Amadou and Mariam were following the tradition of extremely gifted blind musicians. Seeing them and hearing their singing, alternatively low and high, was very special—while they, on the other hand, could obviously not see the audience.

The mix of Amadou and Mariam voices was riveting, creating a mesmerizing sound. London and Amadou and Mariam had, perhaps, little in common since the couple's music is about peace and love rather than about hard beats, which is what London seemed to favor. The story of the Malian artists is a beautiful love and music story, as expressed by their "Je pense à toi," ("I am thinking of you"), which they sadly did not perform. A lot of their lyrics are about love.

For a little while, Amadou and Mariam created a sort of call-and-response with the crowd. Amadou interacted with the audience by asking them questions. Avot performed a creative "electric" solo. Amadou and Mariam also sang a song entitled "Papa dis moi" ("Dad, tell me"). And, towards the end of the show, the couple sang in English—one of their choruses was "I love you."

Amadou and Mariam, along with their percussionist and bassist, wore traditional African clothes. During the show, all the musicians, except for the drummer, sang to accompany Amadou and Mariam, who also created a call-and-answer among the musicians themselves. Mariam declared "On veut que la paix revienne au Mali" ("We want peace to return to Mali"). The singers also sang "C'est pas facile pour les Aigles" ("It is not easy for eagles").

Amadou and Mariam stood next to one another and did not move much on stage—but they did move. Their groove and sound celebrated Africa and enticed an enthusiastic crowd to dance. Mariam led the "game," using the words "à gauche, à droite, au milieu" ("left, right, center"). Tribet and Dembele danced around the couple and added to the liveliness and warmth of the show.

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