Blind musicians Amadou & Mariam on how they met, the messages behind La Confusion, and their different charity work

Chris Gillett |

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Amadou & Mariam – aka married couple Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia – came to Hong Kong for the first time this year for Clockenflap.

Last month’s Clockenflap Festival was one of the most memorable, with headliners Interpol, David Byrne, and Khaled, plus many more performers wowing the crowds with some astonishing sets.

One of the highlights was Malinese act Amadou & Mariam – aka married couple Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia – who were in the city for the first time. 

Before they performed, the couple, who are both blind, spoke to Young Post about their 2017 album La Confusion, their charity work, and their history. 

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Tell us about the lyrical themes in La Confusion

Mariam: We talk about life [around the world], and how there’s confusion in lots of countries because of all the political problems we face globally. In our area of Mali, it started with violence; it seems to have spread everywhere around the world.

Amadou: There are other messages on the album, like in the song Bofou Safou which talks about people who don’t want to work, or don’t really care about achieving anything in life. 

We also talk about the immigration crisis, and the people who are trying to reach Europe or the United States by boat and being stranded in the ocean. We want them to avoid this, and tell them how dangerous it can be. 

You’ve contributed a lot to charitable causes – who have you worked with recently?

Amadou: We’re involved with the World Food Programme [the largest humanitarian organisation promoting food security and addressing hunger, of which they are both ambassadors], and Water Aid [which supplies clean water, toilets and hygiene to 28 different countries], as well as a blind association, among others.

You wrote an autobiography in 2010. Would you write a follow-up seeing how much you’ve achieved since then?

Amadou: We could do! We recorded a documentary as well a few years ago, so it could be a documentary or an updated autobiography book. We’ll see; we’re thinking about it. 

What impact have you had on Malinese music? Has it developed since you started?

Amadou: We play around the world, so that increases people’s awareness. And because we mix it with other genres as well, we feel what we do opens a door to Malinese music. 

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You’ve been married since 1980 and playing together since 1983. How did you meet?

Mariam: I was in a young blind institute where I learned how to dance and sing.

Amadou: I used to play in different orchestras and bands. When we came to the young blind institute, I met Mariam. We set up a new band at the institute, and then we got married later down the line. 

Has your career changed since you became grandparents? What’s next for you?

Amadou: We aim to keep going and making music, of course. We’re going to start working on another album where we plan to release the best material, and release a live album, too.

What can fans expect from an Amadou & Mariam gig?

Amadou: We start with songs from the album, and a mix of blues, rock and dancefloor songs for a big music party. Hopefully, by the end of the set, the interaction with the audience  will be quite powerful.