Amadou & Miriam
This article is from 2009.
When asked to define Jazz, Duke Ellington declared that there were only two kinds of music: good music and bad. Nevertheless, pigeonholes have proved a necessary evil in the pursuit and commoditisation of music, and rarely have the categories been as double-edged a sword as in the case of the World Music banner, conjuring contrary connotations of hype-free talent and patronising trustafarianism. Astonishing today that we should lump together anything that isn’t instantly recognisable as western rock, pop or soul, it’s a distinction that makes less and less sense the more styles borrow from and influence each other.
One outfit that has fully transcended this divide is Malian duo Amadou & Miriam, whose Welcome to Mali album was not just a favourite World release of 2008, but topped many of the broader charts in its own right. Having met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind, the couple have been performing their singular brand of Afro-blues together for over 30 years, being shot to wider acclaim after attracting the attention of Manu Chao, who produced 2004’s Dimanche à Bamako in much his own style. Touring last year’s celebrated album, ironically a true world music blend that leaves little out in the way of intercontinental influence, Amadou & Miriam head an admirable season of international performances at The Picture House that includes the triumphant return of Ojos de Brujo, Edinburgh’s own Orkestra del Sol and many others from beyond the reaches of western popular culture, all illustrious in their own spheres and guaranteed of qualification for Ellington’s first category.
The Picture House, Edinburgh, Sat 28 Feb