Last year we reviewed Amadou & Mariam’s seventh studio album, Folila, and our feelings were a little mixed- we loved the sound, but we also couldn't help ourselves from thinking that we heard it before. The album was chock full of collaborators, but with the exception of Kyp & Tunde of TV on the Radio, most of the guest artists did little to really stir the pot. We wouldn’t presume that we have the duo’s ear, but it does seem that they’ve felt the itch to mix it up a bit. The result of this urge is the Mali Meets Latin America Remix EP, a short collection of remixes of tracks from Folila by hot artists such as Frikstailers and Bomba Estéreo.
This collection is also encouraging to hear because we have a particular interest in blossoming relationship between Malian and Latin American musicians that has developed over the last few years. The beautiful 2011 album A Curva Da Cintura (reviewed here) was the product of the very fruitful three-way collaboration between Toumani Diabaté and Brazilian musicians Arnaldo Antunes and Edgard Scandurra. Afrocubism, the melange of musicians from Cuba and Mali, made large waves in the world music community through its album and star-studded tours. This is an exciting and compelling development (albeit a bit puzzling- unlike Congo or Senegal, Mali has traditionally had relatively little connection to the music) that grows stronger with every release, this one included.
The standout tracks from the EP are King Coya’s take on “Dougou Badia” and Bomba Estéreo’s Simón Mejía’s “Sans toi- Sierra Remix.” What the remix of “Dougou Badia” loses in in drive and chaos, it makes up for in undeniable danceability and ear-tickling production. The original version of this song is a fiery assault on the ears, and while the King Coya remix sheds much of that menace, it maintains a slightly dangerous vibe. “Sans Toi- Sierra Remix” is the opposite side of the coin- Mejía offers a version of the track that doesn’t so much transform the material as much as enhances it. There’s a very fun, uptempo beat grafted onto the ethereal drift of guitar and chant that offered by the original version, but the remix doesn’t dilute the almost dreamlike sensation of Amadou & Mariam’s song. While the remixes on the album don't necessarily scream “Latin American,” that isn't a problem. These artist’s contributions transfigure and reshape the duo’s material into new and beautiful configurations, and for a group whose sound has been as steadfast as Amadou & Mariam, that's a welcome treat.