Amadou & Mariam, 'Welcome to Mali' (Nonesuch)

Critical Mass
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by Lindsey Thomas

In 2005, Dimanche a Bamako served as this blind Malian couple's international breakout, but producer Manu Chao's contributions -- found-sound snippets, liberal use of his own vocals -- sometimes overshadowed them. The follow-up (without Chao) is a more straightforward Afro-pop record, with a few exceptions: Damon Albarn mans the controls for "Sabali," a wonderfully strange bit of electro pop that floats Mariam's voice high above waves of synth arpeggios; and on "Africa," Somali rapper K'naan ogles his homeland's curves over Amadou's buoyant guitar line.

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