Wed., June 6, 2018, 9 pm | Brooklyn Steel, 319 Frost Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222
Amadou & Mariam

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In 1992, the first time I went to Mali, I was pawing through cassettes at a market stall, piling up my first cache of awesome tapes from Bamako. Some of the names were familiar, many not. The seller helped me sort out what was Wassoulou, Bambara, griot, northern and so on. Then he held up a cassette by an act I’d never heard of, Couple Aveugle du Mali, “the blind couple from Mali.” The duo had four cassette volumes out at that point: the seller had only two of them and I bought them both. I asked him what the genre was. He hesitated, saying that it was kind of Bambara music, but not exactly. He probably gave me the gist of Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia’s remarkable story, how Amadou had played guitar alongside Salif Keita in Les Ambassadeurs and then met Mariam at Bamako’s Institute for the Young Blind, how they fell in love over music, married in 1980, and set out to make their own brand of music. Whenever I recall this moment, it strikes me that Amadou and Mariam were then specifically marketing themselves as “blind,” and yet, as the years have shown, they actually saw more clearly than most how Malian music could captivate mass audiences all around the world.

-Banning Eyre