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Arts and Entertainment

Amadou & Mariam @ Henry Fonda Theater, 10/2/09

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Mali's favorite couple, Amadou and Mariam was greeted by an adoring crowd at the Henry Fonda Theater on Friday night. The pair first met each other at the Bamako's Institute for the Young Blind when they were just teenagers. Mariam had lost her sight at five due to complications from malaria, and Amadou had lost his due to a congenital cataract at fifteen. The two of them bonded over their love of music. Mariam had been singing at weddings since she was six years old and Amadou was renowned for his guitar playing. They fell in love, married, and began touring together as "the blind couple from Mali." Thirty years and many albums later, Amadou and Mariam have gained international fame with the help of such fans as Manu Chao and Damian Albarn, who produced their latest album, Welcome to Mali.

Resplendent in matching white garments with gold accents, Amadou and Mariam took the stage, grinning in the direction of the thunderous applause. They welcomed the crowd in French asking how they were feeling before launching into their title track from their last album "Welcome to Mali." Amadou and Mariam's blend of funk, blues, reggae, and African rhythms give them a sound uniquely their own. Taking ideas and lyrics from several different languages and cultures, the duo have created a new language, a language that incorporates a number of cultures in one song. It's music for a twenty-first century listener, where airfare is cheap, and jumping around the globe absorbing culture is no longer exotic, but expected.

The concert was a group effort. Unsatisfied with just her own voice, Mariam, constantly urged the crowd to sing along with every song or clap along with the rhythm. Not that the audience needed any encouragement, as they were already jumping up and down, clapping in time with the beat. Amadou had a more sedate roll, content to pick out complex licks on his gold electric guitar, allowing the music to wash over him. Backing the duo up were a bassist, keyboardist, and two drummers, one on a traditional kit and the other that ran around like a mad thing banging on a conga. His energy seemed to flow to the crowd making the area in front of him dance faster and faster. As the evening came to a close and Amadou and Mariam were lead off the stage by there band members, there was a sense as there always is when you see two talented people who beat the odds, that anything is possible. If two blind Malian musicians can play to a packed crowd in Los Angeles at Fonda theater and make such beautiful music...what is to stop any of us from realizing our own ambitions? (The answer is nothing.)

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