Married Malian musical mastodons Amadou and Mariam release their first studio album since 2005’s Dimanche a Bamako, which was produced by Manu Chao and became one of Africa’s best-selling albums of all time. No pressure with this one then.
The release of EP Bofou Safou (reviewed here) in June gave us a taster of what was to come and the disco ball grooves whet appetites worldwide. So, does La Confusion deliver or disappoint? Once you tour with U2 and Coldplay, are you too big to write meaningful music?
Well, there is the slight problem that you need a good grasp of Bambara (one of the most widely spoken languages in Mali) and French to understand the messages contained within the songs. Luckily, however, Amadou and Mariam are well versed in the transnational language of funk, which make traditional Malian singing and chants palatable to even the most casual listener. The music spreads through your body faster than head lice through a nursery and it is a real challenge not scaring the cat when dancing around and attempting to sing along in a language you will never understand.
There are few substitutes in music for a group that has more than one excellent singer. Range-wise both voices combine and compliment, producing goosebumps and hypnotic melodies which still intrigue on the few songs with lower tempos. For guitar geeks, the album offers much to nerd over. There are face-melting solos on La Confusion and virtuoso lead work on Mokou Mokou Blues. Most interesting, however, are the upbeat harmonic jangles that pepper verses across the album. There are flashes of Highlife music from Nigeria and Ghana, which sounds like Johnny Marr at his best set to happy music. La Confusion really has everything and to be honest, there are no weak tracks. In fact, it’s unfair to pick a stand out track when there are so many strong candidates.
If you are looking for an album that laughs in the face of the language barrier and offers an insight of the beauty and richness of African music, then there should be no confusion. Get this album.