Borderline Latin: Amadou & Mariam, A Hybrid Fusion

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Borderline Latin is an exploration of the influence of Latin music in styles, places and rhythms beyond its traditional borders, and of different types of cross-pollination between Latin music and other musical creatures. Each week, we will feature a song or musical style whose rhythm, themes, melodic inflections or influences have earned it the name of Borderline Latin.

Their latest record has been described as “on all levels a hybrid, mash-up creature” by NPR. They’ve recorded with Manu Chao and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and their music went platinum in France. They recorded the official song of the 2006 FIFA World Cup, and Sam, their son, is the “S” in kickass Malian band SMOD –featured in last week’s post in this column. It already sounds like a lifetime of achievements but, to be fair, they’re just getting started. As you probably guessed from reading the title, we’re talking about Malian duo Amadou & Mariam, this week’s borderline Latin artists.

Amadou & Mariam met at the Bamako Institute for the Young Blind in 1975. They both became blind at a young age –she at 5, and he became blind as a teenager. They got married in 1980 and started performing together in Bamako, Mali. They didn’t release their first album Sou Ni Tile until 1998, but by then they had forged an eclectic music style, mixing traditional Malian songs with blues, rock and Caribbean trumpets. In 2004, Manu Chao produced their fourth album, Dimanche a Bamako, which brought them success worldwide, and contains such sweet songs as “M’bifé” and “Sénégal Fast Food” –featuring vocals by Many Chao himself.

They have proven to be more than just a “world music” sensation. In April 2012, they released Folila, an album they recorded in Bamako, Mali, and in New York City, collaborating with well-established international musicians as well as gifted African ones. From that album, enjoy “Oh Amadou (feat. Bertrand Cantat),” their first single released early this year. And if you can’t distinguish the Latin influence there, go check out their music: I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised.

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Download Amadou & Mariam’s Folila below:

Click HERE to read more “Borderline Latin” profiles. For comments and tips, please contact me at:, and for more info on my “Borderline” works, visit Borderline Projects.