I’m Frosty, welcome to Red Bull Music Academy in Berlin. Today is a beautiful high vibration day. We’re welcoming a golden couple from Bamako, Mali, we have Amadou and Mariam here. They’ve been making music together since the early 1980s. They brought their music around the world, and today they’re bringing their music here to share with you. So, let’s all welcome Amadou and Mariam So, yours is a story of music but also of love. I’d like to ask – when you first met each other do you have a recollection of the first time when you connected and what your thoughts were? Yes, I’d say we met in 1975 at the Institute for the Young Blind in Mali, in Bamako. I remember that I played in different bands, I went to the Institute, where Mariam was introduced to me. She sang, and I played the guitar. This is how we started to do things together. Mariam, do you remember Amadou, do you remember when you met him what your thoughts were? Yes, when I was at the Institute for the Young Blind Amadou came to find me there. I composed the songs. In 1975 Amadou came to find me there, we shook hands, and he was introduced to me as a singer and a guitar player. Before we met, I heard Amadou in a piece on the radio in Mali, I really liked that song. So, when he was introduced to me I really enjoyed that. We shook hands and we made music together. We started together. Yes, we started together. Exactly, her voice was beautiful,
Yes, we started together. Exactly, her voice was beautiful, and I was already a professional musician,
Exactly, her voice was beautiful, and I was already a professional musician, I played in different bands before coming to the Institute. She sang well, the Institute asked me to play the guitar, and she had a beautiful voice which captured me. We performed together in 1976, in January 1976. Exactly. I’ve heard that you finish each other’s sentences, and we now understand, this has built over time, this only comes from a couple that has been as long together as you have it’s wonderful to see. Yes, it is a long time that we have been together, since 1975, I was a student at the Institute for the Young Blind when we met I started singing when I was six, I was asked by neighbours to sing at marriages, baptisms etc. When he came and put a band together I was the main singer. It’s been a long time that we are together, we married in 1980, we have children, and that’s it. Voilà. Can you tell us a little bit more about the Institute for the Young Blind, how you found that place or how the place found you and what it meant to you? The Institute for the Young Blind has been founded around 1973. Young blind people did not have access to education, to culture, it was a vacuum. So, the Institute was founded and Mariam was among the first to graduate. It was very important, and I went there because earlier I went into rehabilitation We set up the music department, and this was very interesting for people in Mali There was a lot of sympathy for the blind, we organised evenings to show how blind people can read, to write and to calculate – we showed that kind of thing We also organised solidarity weeks, with bands from the Institute playing music, dancing, that attracted many people. We also started composing pieces in order to raise awareness for the problems of handicapped persons and to explain that it was necessary to help us and to support our actions, to help blind people to advance. That’s a very important place and a very powerful impact that it seems to have had. Yes, it had an effect on us, because we have created things. Mariam had a beautiful voice and I was a musician, I sang as well, so it was a platform for us to meet and create our music. Our style of music started at the Institute, and the Institute has benefited from us as well. We’re in a room of music, with a lot of musicians. So, I think it would be nice to actually give them some music. So, I’d like to play a piece right now. We‘ll talk about it afterwards. Here’s a little music. That’s a piece called Fama Allah from a band called L’Eclipse and tell me about Idrissa Soumaoro, please. Idrissa was a teacher at the Institute of the Young Blind. He and Amadou taught us how to sing. At the time I was also composing,
Idrissa was a teacher at the Institute of the Young Blind. He and Amadou taught us how to sing. At the time I was also composing, I taught the others how to sing and to dance. Idrissa Soumaoro were together since the band “Les Ambassadeurs,” I was at the guitar and Idrissa was on keyboard. We played together. Each time we meet we play. When I went to the Institute he fancied coming, too. He was already a teacher of music So, he went to the Institute of the Young Blind to teach. This was our first record made by Germans at the Institute, Thank you to Germany for this. Thank you! And this was kind of a private issue record and it was released through the German government, who helped fund it, but also the Mali Association for the Blind and it was given out This seems to be a projection of the power and talent of the students who were there hearing the music, if you didn’t say this is connected to the Institute of the Blind you wouldn’t know they were blind musicians. Sound transcends all of that Yes, as Mariam said there was the band of the Institute, the music of the Institute was well-known in Mali, Which is why the German government has helped us This style of music comes from our youth when we listened to Pink Floyd a lot, Led Zeppelin and others. So, we tried to find a link between Floyd and our music in order to create this style. Well, what you created sounds incredible and we are happy that you did that. Mariam, was that your first record that you appeared on and how did it sound to hear your voice back on the record? Yes, well it was good. We listened to it at the Institute for the Young Blind. It was great to listen to our own voices Yes
It was great to listen to our own voices Yes We enjoyed it. It was a great performance, because L’Eclipse consisted of blind and seeing people We complemented each other on the heart level I played solo guitar I was the lead singer Idrissa Soumaoro was on the keyboard, there was also Issa Gnaré on bass. He was with us in “Les Ambassadeurs.” There was also Batabo Benleo who played drums, there was also a young blind musician called Zouana, on bongos. It was very good, this mix of blind and seeing people. Idrissa Soumaoro who was leading this band, a long-time teacher at the Institute and a long-time friend and collaborator of yours, is not blind, but has connected to the Institute and seems to have been an important part of the musical programme there, but as you mentioned, you mentioned Les Ambassadeurs, this piece we heard, Fama Allah, is from around 1978, but you were already playing with Les Ambassadeurs 1975 to 1977. Can you introduce the group Les Ambassadeurs? Yes, Les Ambassadeurs as its name suggests were musicians who came all over the place. They came from Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, which makes the name Les Ambassadeurs. We had many different music styles. There was a singer who sang only rhythm and blues and pop, there was also a salsa singer, there was a singer from Mali also, Salif Keita who sang the traditional repertoire. Idrissa Soumaoro sang Bambara songs and there was Ousmane Diaou who sang Cuban and Senegalean music. Les Ambassadeurs was a cosmopolitan band, we played every night, from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m. We played mostly an international repertoire, jazz, blues, Afro-Cuban, we interpreted, and every one played his part. Customers came and requested pieces, and we played them. The full name of the group in many forms is Les Ambassadeurs du Motel de Bamako. Can you explain the motel part and where you playing? What kind of setting were you playing in? The government had created the Mali hotel society,
What kind of setting were you playing in? The government had created the Mali hotel society, with the Grand Hotel, there was the motel. The motel was where we played nearly every day. It was a popular place, but not anyone went there. It was for those who knew music and who had the means, because it was a luxury hotel. This was the motel, and we played, we were a little bit like civil servants. We played and were paid at the end of the month. We practiced there, and sometimes we also travelled. Les Ambassadeurs went to France for the first time, that was in 1974. Les Ambassadeurs was a professional band, they knew how to read music and knew musical theory. You mentioned that it was very cosmopolitan, both within representing different areas of Africa and West Africa but also Bamako was bringing in music of the world. There is a lot of different sounds floating through the air there. Can you paint a picture of the sonic kind of field, what it sounded like in Bamako in the 70s? What were you hearing and what was the influence? Tell us a little bit about the atmosphere in the air in Bamako. In the 70s music was popular, because there were bands in every neighbourhood. At the centre were Les Ambassadeurs and Rail Band du Buffet de l’Hôtel de la Gare. These were the two great bands. Otherwise there was l’Orchestre National B, l’Orchestre National A. So, it was Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs who organised afternoon concerts in cinemas. Young people came, it was a new way of enjoying concerts. in the 70s. Les Ambassadeurs had a lot of fans, and Rail Band also. They were a popular band, while Les Ambassadeurs were professional. Les Ambassadeurs played many different musical genres, African music, from Zaïre and Congo, music sung by James Brown. James Brown had a lot of influence on Mali and Africa. The two bands were a little like soccer teams, Rail Band against Les Ambassadeurs and vice versa. It was a great party, with fans from both sides, it was great, we enjoyed it. I heard you giggled a little bit, so the Rail Band, those were the rivals of Les Ambassadeurs. You mentioned soccer teams, these were two rivals. In fact, if it was a soccer team, Les Ambassadeurs seduced the star player of Rail Band, Salif Keita came from Rail Band to Les Ambassadeurs. Tell us a little bit about this relationship between the bands a little more, and also about Salif Keita. Salif Keita was in the Rail Band. As I said, at the time Les Ambassadeurs were strongly supported by the government at the time, and the motel also. It was not easy. People worked under good conditions, which is why Salif Keita was taken away. Then there was a lot of change. Salif at the time was the best traditional singer, which is why he had to join Les Ambassadeurs. The Rail Band and Les Ambassadeurs, yes there was rivalry, but that was only on stage. We played with the musicians of the Rail Band, and they also played with those of the motel, but it was mostly for the audience that there was a rivalry. “I like a lot the Rail Band.“ “And I like Les Ambassadeurs,” it was mostly that. So, 1970s. Around the world there was some funky music in the air. And you were talking about the rivalry on stage. Was there a stage show, was the band dancing? I know, Mariam, you were a dancer as well. And I saw you dancing to that last song, I know this in person as well. But what was the stage show like? And was it a rivalry of the entire production, or was it focused on the music? I started on stage around 76, with Amadou the 20 January 1976. Before I went to the Institute of the Young Blind I sang and I danced. When I went there I was asked to teach singing and dancing. I took the hands of the blind to make movements, to make them dance. When I danced the neighbours gave me gifts, all the time. They encouraged me a lot. You can also talk about the time with Les Ambassadeurs and the Rail Band, you went on concerts. Yes, we went to listen to them all the time. I went to listen to the Rail Band and also to Les Ambassadeurs. At the motel and at the Buffet de la Gare. It was like soccer teams, because with Les Ambassadeurs there was a team, like the soccer team Djoliba. Les Ambassadeurs were fans of Djoliba, because their president financed a lot Les Ambassadeurs. The Rail Band was like a club of another soccer team, Stade. Stade and Djoliba were always against each other, and that was also true for the fans of the bands as well. The Rail Band was very popular because they had a lot of Bambara in their repertoire. And Les Ambassadeurs were very professional, and that was the difference. Passions can run very high in both music and sports. So, this is a convergence of these energies, I imagine. Yes, this is the link. This is how we survived at the time. In the 70s music changed a lot in Mali, particularly with concerts happening everywhere. Before, there were no concerts. We played a lot at dances. Concerts started with Les Ambassadeurs and the Rail Band. Mariam, were you going to these concerts, were you attending some of these early Les Ambassadeurs concerts as a guest? Amadou sang there, and I loved music since early childhood. I went to see Rail Band, and after we had met I went to see Les Ambassadeurs, I was at the motel all the time, and often at the Buffet de la Gare. I danced with all these groups, with my friends, we just loved both bands. Wonderful. I wanna play a little touch of Les Ambassadeurs. And this is not a live performance, but this is a radio broadcast from Mali. And I think it’ll illustrate some of the wide world influences that were in the air. Here’s Les Ambassadeurs. So, this is a Radio Mali broadcast. No 1. This is mid 70s in Bamako. But you could easily think you’re maybe in Havana. There’s sounds of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti, and wider world sounds floating through the air of Bamako. Were you picking on all of this through the radio, through records, how is all of this music influence floating into your lives in Bamako? As I said, Les Ambassadeurs was a band with a lot of variety. We had many records from Cuba. We tried to copy the guitarist and the other instruments. The singer was Ousmane Diaou, who came from Senegal to Mali … … with a beautiful voice … Yes, there were many musical genres that we interpreted, from Brazil. It was great because at the motel there were people from all over the world. They stayed there, and since we were in the night club and played there, we had people asking us to play pieces. There were also other musicians, Jimmy Cliff who came to Mali, playing with Les Ambassadeurs and the Rail Band. Many musicians came, and we knew their repertoire, particularly Fela Kuti from Nigeria. The Rail Band was specialised in Afro beat because they had a good connection. Les Ambassadeurs went to the Arts Festival in Lagos in 1977, with all African countries, it was a great festival. When Les Ambassadeurs were digging into possibilities of songs to play – were you exchanging things that you had heard on a record or on the radio? And were you frequently changing the songs that you were playing live? The songs in the evenings were very much liked by the audience, music from Congo. Well, we had to learn a lot. Les Ambassadeurs was like a school. We tried to play all kinds of music. That was how all the musicians in Les Ambassadeurs were formed. After Les Ambassadeurs people could play almost anywhere, because we played all kinds of music, even music for popular dances, tango, all this. With Les Ambassadeurs it was mostly like being in a music school. You guys had chops. I don’t know if the translators got “chops.” You guys were on fire, from the sound of it. I want to play a touch of something that maybe in Mariam‘s ears was floating. I’m just gonna play a little bit of this. But this is kind of what where you head was at this point. So that’s Sheila with Bang Bang. Sheila, yes. So, at one point I heard you were also called Sheila. Yes, when I was a little girl my girlfriends called me Sheila. I sang one of her songs. In Mali there were nicknames for trendy people. My nickname was Sheila. Even now my old girlfriends call me Sheila. I sang her songs, during the holidays I sang this. We had created a group called Les Noblesses. I was the leader. I arranged and organised everything. Mariam was fond of French music, she forgot to say. You can tell them what you listened to. Go on. I listened a lot to French music. Sheila, Nana Mouskouri … Mireille Mathieu, Dalida … This music was played on the radio. Nicoleta, Sylvie Vartan, Johnny Hallyday a lot. So, you were hearing this music on the radio, and were you also early on singing in the style? But also – were you encouraged to be a musician? Did your family, your community support you before finding the Institute for the Young Blind? Did you feel you could be a musician professionally? Yes, a lot. My family has supported me a lot, they have encouraged me, people have encouraged me for this music. I sang it and people liked it. Your voice is magical, so I’m sure anything you sing people would like. People really liked it. So, at some point Bamako might have started feeling a little small, and you moved to Côte d’Ivoire, and this is after you married. Can you maybe tell us what brought you to Cote d’Ivoire, you were living maybe in Abidjan, what Abidjan was providing what Bamako wasn’t. When we went to Côte d’Ivoire, at the time there were no recording studios, there were no producers and no distributors yet. We had many concerts everywhere, people encouraged us a lot, but we went to Côte d’Ivoire to find studios. At the time everyone went there, all the trendy people. We also, we were in Mali, Burkina, and so we went to Côte d’Ivoire for recording. There we made our record. The first cassette went well, the second as well, up to the fourth. Then we came back to Mali. We had concerts in Côte d’Ivoire, with full houses everywhere. But at our first concert there we were little known, and there were only a two people. This didn’t discourage us, we stayed and made our cassette which went well. Then people said we should go to France because people would love our music. We went for the first time to France around 1994, in African neighbourhoods. The we returned to Mali, and a French producer came to find us there. We got to know each other, and then we went to France. The first time on stage in France went very well. We were stressed, particularly me, Amadou has no stress. When we played at the Transmusic Hall in Rennes people enjoyed it. This is how it went. We had to go to Côte d’Ivoire because in Mali there were no studios, there was only the radio station. There were no producers, there were no newspapers either, there wasn’t even TV in Mali. So, all those who became famous went to Côte d’Ivoire. This is where we found our first producer called Maé Cano. And when we sang we became famous in Côte d’Ivoire, we had many interviews in newspapers which is why we became known in Africa. This way we came to Europe. Marc-Antoine Moreau heard our music and came to find us. So, we were in France. We talked about music. We said we wanted our music to be international. This is how we started to come. Our international career started in ’97. We played at the Transmusic in Rennes, but we had no record on the market. We were a little worried, we said we are playing in France, no one knows us, how are we going to deal with this? But it was the contrary. When we started to sing people sang with us, they applauded. We were very surprised. And thanks to this concert we got our first record company Polygram who contracted us there. We returned to the same festival in ’98, we played well. And for our first international tour started here in Germany in December ’98. We were welcomed in France and we were in Germany as well. We often came to Germany, for the World Cup of 2006, with Herbert Grönemeyer. We toured about 20 cities. Each time people ask us which country we prefer we say we like France, Canada and Germany, because Germans support us and like our music. Every time we come many journalists ask us a lot of questions. We were in Stuttgart, in Chemnitz, in Berlin, Nürnberg, Hamburg, quite a lot. We know Germany quite well from our concert tours. How did it feel to be a young couple, both romantic married couple, but also a music couple who was recording and then having your music embraced by the world? How did it feel to you in those early stages, coming from Bamako and reaching the world? Now we are feeling very well, because we have toured the world, we have played in front of many presidents, many personalities. We have met also many celebrities, Barack Obama, Jacques Chirac, Hollande, many people. Now we are feeling very well. People ask us what we think about our current success, And we say that it has exceeded our dreams. Our dream was to come to France. But we didn’t think at all that we would go anywhere in the world. This has surprised us a lot. But it is also because we stayed a long time in Mali, we worked hard, we listened to a lot of music. When we came connection came fast. We played with many bands. We had a lot of sympathy with groups like U2, Coldplay and many musicians in our albums, Manu Chao and others who have seen the value of our music and have embraced it. And as I said, with our background in Les Ambassadeurs, we were able to play anywhere in the world. You’re coming from a specific space. You seem to have no boundaries when it comes to view the world of sound. You’re synthesising that big world view through your music. You hear all these shades of music from around the world, which is wonderful. Yes, in order to know something, you have to love everything. We listened to everything. Blues, rock… jazz, disco, everything, Cuban music, salsa. Our style mainly comes from blues and rock. We can mix styles, and so we play at nearly every festival – jazz, blues, rock, pop music, world music. We’re nearly everywhere in the world because we love all types of music. This is why we have this advantage. There are some who are good at certain music styles only, we are not like this. We sing in French, but not like French singers. We sing with our style in French. We mix in Bambara, this is very good, we do not sing like the French, but in French. You’ve played in some of the biggest arenas in the world with some of the biggest bands in the world, like U2, Coldplay, etc. the World Cup opening. But we’re here in the Funkhaus in Berlin, and the moment is now. Would you like to play a little music for us live in the place? We’d love to hear a little bit of guitar, a little bit of your beautiful voices, share some music live. Would that be something you would be interested in? Yes, we will try something, because it would be a pity to come without playing. I think we can play something now, yes. I’d love you also tell about your guitar … let’s have some applause first. This is the first piece that we performed with Mariam, and I will play a piece that was my first piece as well. The first piece together is Teree La Sebin. Merci, Thank you. Dankeschön. I sang this as a little girl. That day there were many celebrities, high-standing people, many people. I was successful. There were many people throwing money at me. Since that day I have always had courage. Merci, dankeschön. This is from the Mali era. It is the most famous piece over here, Je Pense A Toi. We will sing it together. Yeah, dankeschön, thank you, merci. The first piece is called … … Teree La Sebin. This was a song to increase awareness for problems of the blind. In the song we say that to be blind is natural, it is a handicap, no one has looked to have this illness. It was to increase awareness of the parents to not blame and not marginalise their children. But to look after them. I was not the first to be blind, but many before me. It is not a problem, but destiny. Everyone gets a chance in their lives. There are people who are normal, there are others who are handicapped. Life is like this, so you have to use the means you have. This is what the first piece Teree La Sebin is about. The second piece is Je Pense A Toi. It is a love song. It made us famous in France and with it we started our international career. To explain Je Pense A Toi – not everyone speaks French: I think of you, my love, my sweetheart, Do not leave me, my love, my darling. When I’m in bed I only dream of you, And when I wake up I only think of you. When I do not see you, I cannot say anything I cannot do anything, I do not want to see anything, my love, my sweetheart. This is what we sang, in a longer version: Some promised you the earth, others heaven, some promised you the moon, but I have nothing else than my poor guitar. This is simply a love song. It was a very tender sight to see you both there, singing this love song together, That you have created and being so close to each other, very beautiful. How does the song writing happen, as a couple – what is your creative flow as a couple and musicians? For the lyrics, we do it each for ourselves. I compose my songs during the night. Then I ask Amadou and we arrange together. For him it is early in the morning, for me it is during the night because there is no one disturbing me. It happens that we compose together. When I ask Amadou, very often he says: “Mariam, take this out, put this in.” Often when he composes his songs I tell him: “Amadou, take this out, put this in” This is how we do it. We arrange together, but at the beginning we are each on our own. Inspiration often comes to me early in the morning, people are not up, there is less noise. This is good for writing lyrics. Also, during our trips there is a lot of inspiration. Everyone for himself, and then we come together to work it out. Mariam, you mentioned that you like to write at night. Why do you like to write at night? I like to write at night because there is no noise at night, no one disturbs me. When I’m in my room I compose a lot during the night. Amadou just said we also do it on our travels, that’s where I compose as well. At night it is calm. And where are you pulling some of your inspiration for the lyrics, obviously your own experience? But are you reading a lot of poetry books, looking at the news, keeping open to the world? I know the radio’s on a lot. Yes, we listen a lot to the radio. Inspiration comes from daily life, this is what we generally sing about. We are inspired by daily life, by society in which we live. We try to take the good things, we describe the bad things, we sing about mutual love because it is very important. We need love in life, we need peace, we also need freedom. Justice as well. We create some of our texts, we also witness things happening, we try to put them into a song. This is how it works now. When we sing, we sing about what we have experienced and how we would like society to be. Our style is blues and rock, and Bambara music is linked to those. We listened a lot, me on the guitar I listened a lot to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, many guitarists. With the traditional instrument Ngoni we try to mix tradition and modernity, and this is what mostly makes our music. The blues and Mali are very linked, and many people say that the roots of the blues are really in Mali. And there’s instruments in west Africa that are connected to the American banjo, and the transition of instruments and ideas, people. Do you feel that root when you are in Mali? Do you feel that there is not a gap of an ocean and a continent but that those are the same and one? Yes, American blues and Mali blues are both blues. There are links, but there is a difference. For example, the Americans have developed a lot their music, they can do 12 beat, 16 and others. In Mali people have stayed in the tradition. What comes to heart, we sing it in our music. The difference between American and Mali blues is mostly based on beat. You spend a lot of time, now that you’ve achieved worldwide success, you spend a lot of time, you have a home in Paris. When you’re in Paris and you’re writing music – are you thinking of Mali a lot and what is the essence of Mali in your life and of Mali that might inspire you creatively during your time in Paris? We often think of Mali, because it is our home country. So, we think of Mali when we are in Paris. We write songs also for Mali people, for everyone. When we are in France we are connected to Mali people, they come to visit. We go to Mali. So, we are not at all disconnected, we always think of Mali. We also think of Europe. The European influence comes mainly from playing with professionals and to blend this in our music we are creating. These are the two sides we have. In all our albums we speak a lot about Mali, about things happening there. This is a question for the people in the room, by show of hands: Who has been to Mali? So actually, it’s fortunate to be in a space, it’s an opportunity for you to travel through music. But also – I’m curious. It looks like nobody in the room has been to Mali yet. Can you tell us a little something about the spirit of Mali that people outside of Mali might not know that is most powerful to you? For those who do not know Mali – it is a welcoming place. They like people coming from abroad. There is hospitality. Even if you do not know anyone you will always find somewhere to stay or to have company. People will try to show you many things. Mali is also known for its musical variety, because each race has its music. The Bambara have their music. The Songhai have their music. The Mande people also have their music. When women do the household … … we sing There is music for hunters, for farmers. Mali is a country that likes people to come and to learn, to take everything as it is. We like blending, we like learning and travelling as well. People from Mali travel a lot. Mali is great, on this cultural level. For music, Mali is a good country. And for hospitality, yes there are troubles now, but before Mali was a peaceful country. We always try to tell about things happening in Mali. In Dimanche À Bamako, a day of marriage, when people go to the town hall and then they have a procession, there is open air music, it is a party everywhere on Sundays. Everyone is dressed up, everyone is celebrating, it’s great on Sundays. You mentioned that you both seek a little bit of evening silence and solitude when you’re being creative. But when you’re relaxing in Bamako in your home, and you head out on the streets – what does it sound like? Is there music from every corner? What is the sonic texture of the city? There is music almost everywhere. Yes, in Mali there is music in every street. What he just said: On Sundays people dress up, we celebrate, we play, we dance, we eat well. Maybe not now. Before, Mali was a good country. In Mali, they really like foreigners. There is music on the markets, in the houses, young people gather in front of the doors to make tea. There are maybe 10 or 15 people. They listen to music everywhere. They like music. For a long time there was no music industry in Mali. So, we listened to music coming from somewhere else. Which is why we have listened to many people. People from Mali enjoy music, and they have no borders for music. You said people dress very nice on Sunday, but you dress very nice on Tuesdays as well! You’ve brought us into your world of … Yes, because the visual aspect goes with music also. What we convey also needs appearance. In Mali the singers, the big artists like to dress well, they like to wear a lot of gold. This is part of musical culture. We like to be in synch with what we feel. We sing Bambara music, and we have clothes assorted to this. So, we feel we know a little bit about Mali now, we’ve been brought into your world. But one specific thing about you as a couple is maybe shared being blind. And it is something that happened when you were both young. But you also bring people into this world a bit. You’ve had concerts called “Eclipse” concerts, and these concerts are in the dark. And so people are focusing on the environment, the atmosphere and the music. I’d like to actually now bring people into that world a bit. We’re gonna do something a little unconventional in the hall here. And we’re gonna turn off all the lights of the hall. And I ‘d like everybody to additionally close your eyes, too, because … Let’s get into the world of sound and let’s get into the world of sound that Amadou and Mariam have created. Because it’s powerful. And I thing when we get here it’s even more powerful. So, I wait till the lights go all the way down, and I’m gonna press play on this piece. I’ll announce what it is afterwards but let’s listen for a bit. That’s a piece called La Fête Au Village from Dimanche A Bamako. It looks like Amadou is about to say something. Yes, it’s La Fête Au Village. In the villages each year it is like here the festival evenings. Each year after harvesting young people organise events mostly in the villages. People dress up, they come on bicycles and motorcycles, on lorries to the party at the village. It is mostly after harvesting, after having sold the rice and millet this is when you celebrate. It’s nice to celebrate through music and through music at these concerts L’Eclipse. And also through the songs. The content and lyrics of many of your songs, you’re raising awareness of blindness and being a blind artist, people who don’t have a platform. Poor people, you help them elevate. But also raising our awareness as listeners, and our awareness to sound, the power of sound itself. I’m curious about … I’m not blind. It’s hard to fully place myself, you know, in that position. But both of you had vision during your lives, early on. Is there a part of the visual memory that stays with you as humans and as musicians or has it become something else? You mentioned, Amadou, at one point in the interview that we’ve already forgotten your blindness, and it seems that you’ve transcended that. Can you talk a little bit about the memories, and if it’s connected? There are two phases in life. When you are blind you have to be able to say that you are blind and accept it. The second thing is to know what to do. You have to try and see what you can do, because in life everyone tries to do something. You try to do what you can do and not just sit around. When I was seeing I saw the sun, the moon, I played with a ball, I played everywhere, I went on a bicycle. Up to the age of 16 I was seeing. Afterwards things deteriorated. But I increased my courage in my other senses. You have to develop the ears, the nose, touch, and space. In listening to music you can imagine, also in playing the guitar. When I am in a car, this helps particularly in areas I know well. For instance, we were in Montreux, we took a taxi and I gave exact instructions to the driver. He stopped and asked me whether I really did not see. I have a sense for space. When we travel, people show us our hotel room and that’s it. We get around, we know the space around, we find where everything is. This is very important, you have to remember where you were, you have to know how to get around and find things. Very often I can tell seeing people where to find places. Of course people ask me whether I would like to see again, and I say I don’t need it because I can do everything other people do, using a phone, sending e-mails. I travel a lot, I’m always on a plane. We play at all festivals around the world. I am the president of the Mali artists federation, I am the president of the professional musicians’ trade union in Mali, we are ambassadors of the World Food Programme. What more would you want? Life is like this. You’ve travelled the world and you’ve done so much. I’d like to talk something inside as well. There is this idea of synaesthesia, I don’t know how it will translate, visual accompaniment to music. But that doesn’t mean visual with eyes open, seeing eyes open that can be inside and that can be something vivid. You mention imagination. How in your world, in your minds hearing a guitar tone or something – do you have this vivid imagination that is inside, an inner vision? Yes, when I hear a guitar, when I hear music, I give it a colour. With guitars often it is white, with other sounds it is yellow and red also. Within we imagine many things. Which is why in music we can imagine melancholy, the sounds at a beach, the forest. This comes to mind when listening to music. Some music sends you to the countryside, other music into the city. In your mind you imagine a vibrant city with cars. In the countryside you see green because you have seen it. When you have seen things, you can imagine them. When you haven’t it is more difficult to imagine. But we have seen and so we can imagine things, the colours of our clothes. What we have inside is sometimes personal, we make the difference of voices. When someone speaks we know, we don’t need to see him. We even make the difference in how people walk, so that we know exactly who is coming, and we imagine many things in our minds. In this world one of the things that I believe is that our differences connect us more than our similarities. That we are all more unique than the same. When people start to connect through differences they actually come together. I think that collapsing of borders internationally through music, bringing sound from places and also the collapsing of preconceptions. I think these things join us, when you celebrate the differences. I appreciate the effort you put into educating people about your background, your specific experience. But we’re also different in so many ways, it’s beautiful to have that expressed. We complement each other in this world. This is what we sing in one of our pieces called Africa. People say that every day is similar but not the same. The fingers of one hand are not the same, but in life we complement each other. Everyone should know this. The biggest needs the smallest, the weakest needs the strongest. If we were all the same the world would not move, no-one would do anything for anyone. We depend on each other and we complement each other. Handicapped people need able-bodied people, and the able-bodied need the handicapped. It is a task. Absolutely, an exchange. You’ve put an energetic exchange through music into the world, and we appreciate it so much. There’s a piece, you mentioned that maybe you wanna play a piece – I’m not sure, do you want to play a piece or would you like me to play a recording, I also have a recording here. I don’t know, which piece? So, I have a piece here that to me you talk about these vivid inner kinds of atmospheres, colours. Let’s hear a piece of music. This is a song that I like to play called Sabali. And this is a song that is another piece that put you on a very big scale internationally and reached people all over the world. So, we’re gonna hear Amadou and Mariam’s song Sabali. This is from the album Welcome to Mali. That’s Sabali from Amadou and Mariam, from Welcome to Mali 2008, produced by Damon Albarn and nominated for best contemporary world music recording. I think world music as a genre can be stripped from it, your universal music, your music beyond that, it’s really amazing. Can you tell us a little bit about that song, about the lyrical content and where that was born? The contents is … … patience. When you are patient you can get many things. We were courageous, we were patient. Which is why we received so many awards, we had many meetings, we travelled a lot. This I patience. When you travel you have to be patient. You have to wait in airports. When you love someone, you have to be patient. It is with patience that you make love triumph. I give you a big kiss, that’s it. You have to be patient. When you are in a hurry you cannot do all this. In my ears patience and passion, I didn’t realise in English at least, I couldn’t hear the French, but those are similar words and things that are very closer than they may seem. As a married couple, patience and passion are also pretty integral to your balance in relationship. Yes, it is very important. When you are married, when you are together sometimes there are problems but you have to manage them, you have to be patient. This way you are gonna live long. In the song – when you love someone you need a lot of patience. This kind of patience is a bit like tolerance and compromise. The three go together. When you love your man, you need a lot of tolerance and comprehension. When you love a woman, you have to try and understand her, so you need patience in order to analyse all this. This is a big one but it can also be an easy one. What would be your definition of love, what is love to you? Love is a feeling that you have for each other, a feeling to love each other naturally and to share the same passion for life, to connect, to understand each other. To look into the same direction, to try to share happiness, that is important in love. Communication is also very important. And I’m sure that ability to communicate as a couple also comes through in the music, translated through your working relationship, and we hear it in the output of the music. Yes, there is communication between us. In music yes, because we are always there, we play one thing, then another, we communicate – this is good, this is not good. We can put this in, we can do this. All this is based on love because when you love someone even when he does bad things you don’t say anything or what you would like. But if the person does things you encourage her, this is loving work, loving your next, sharing life, love in general. Would love be kind of the greatest mission in your music? Or what would you define as the greatest mission in your music? We have many missions in music. Justice, love, peace, the message of peace and of love. The message of justice, the message of understanding – all of this is in our music. And giving hope to people. This is very important in everything we do. We are here, and this gives pride to those who stayed in Mali. That we move to other continents gives them hope. People thinking that blind people cannot do anything – well, just seeing us and blind people working gives them hope. Couples who do not understand each other – we tell them that we are together since 76, this can give them hope. Our mission is to give people hope, to make smile, courage to people to work and to love each other more. Love, peace, but also bringing back your early times in Mali, the energy of great dance music and a party. I’d like to actually play before moving to questions – this is from your newest album, this is from your album La Confusion, confusion, I can be confused even in saying that. Bofou Safou, this is a piece from Amadou and Mariam, we’re gonna hear this jam because it is an upbeat dancy jam, and then we’re moving in with some questions. Let’s have some questions, I guess. There’s David with the magic microphone. Hello, first of all thank you for sharing all that music and love. Being two of the leading voices of Malian music, I would like to ask what do you think about the conflict areas over in Mali in recent years and the effect it’s had on music coming from Mali. We have sung about the conflict in Mali for years. At one time music was forbidden in the north. People have fought in order to revitalize this music. We as well we have sung we want peace in our country, let us hold hands. In our latest album we have sung La Confusion. It has become confusion everywhere, no one listens to anybody, there is rivalry between men and women. At each event we sing in order to raise awareness so that they can understand better and see that ours is a message of peace. We are aware of the situation, this is what we sing in our songs. Hi, thanks first of all for coming and for your little concert, that was a real highlight. I wonder if, as you had to develop your auditive sense more than people who can see, if you have realised any differences in your approach to making music, also like in the process of making music, in comparison to other people. And if there is something that you could teach us that we could pay more attention to maybe, as people who are distracted from our visual sense. Did that make sense, I hope I … yeah. When you don’t see you concentrate a lot on the music. We hear things that seeing people normally don’t. We deepen the auditive sense, we analyse all sounds that come. There can be noises we hear, but seeing people do not pay attention to. We develop our ears. Thank you. And is there anything that you could teach us, that you realize that you do differently in comparison to other musicians, that maybe we could benefit from? Music is something we do differently, particularly concentrating and inspiration. As a blind person you have to concentrate. We make music for our own pleasure and we share this with others. In making music we get out of solitude, we have a guitar at hand, we have a piano, we enjoy. You have to do something you enjoy and something to get out of isolation. When you don’t see you listen a lot, to the radio, to music. We could take a whole day just listening to music. I think it is all about concentration. Thanks for this beautiful lecture and especially for the music, because I don’t think I have heard something like this in my entire life. Being able to see it, in front of my eyes and enjoy and being also part of the performance, we were clapping our hands was definitely beautiful, beautiful, beautiful, really. My question is regarding black music, African music. What do you think about Black artists nowadays and do you think they’re connected to the roots? There are different pictures, there are artists who stayed with their traditional music and who don’t look for anything else, there are other Black artists trying to do things in order to come front stage and connect. There is Afrobeat and there is another well-known style of music, Black-African rap. They have understood that we can blend our African music with blues and rock. This opens up. I believe that African artists move more to the universal, which is good. Earlier it was traditional with traditional instruments because it was African. But now we are moving beyond that. We are now making universal music for everyone, without wiping out traditional music. It has its place, which is where we recognise culture and the value of artists in their ethnic or African dimension. There is traditional and there is blending. One of your sons, Sam, is in a group called SMOD. He is a hip-hop artist, and it seems that maybe now currently making music is not so different in the spirit that was in the air in Bamako in the 70s, blending and contemporary expression. It is not the same thing. He raps and plays the guitar. So, it is not the same as our music. He has his music. He was with SMOD, they were three, but now he is on his own. It is not the same as in the 70s. There are many rap groups in Africa, that has changed a lot, it has become very modern. In Mali there are many groups who do things differently than we did. But he is a rapper with a universal edge. Thank you for the great music and the great lecture. I strongly believe that there is no Black or White music. Music is music, music is a universal language. That’s my understanding of music. There is no such thing as Black or White music. Thanks. Very often it is said that music is universal, whether you are white or black, we listen to music. It helps people to pass time and to … … find relief with their problems. It brings people closer. Exactly. Music is universal. It has no colour. Once again thank you so much. I have a question about your time in Abidjan. When you guys lived there were you collaborating with Ivorian artists and were there specific styles of Ivorian music that inspired you? In Côte d’Ivoire we played with many other artists at the time, we had concerts together. But at the time featuring wasn’t very developed. Everyone played their music, but sometimes we played together. We shared the stage with others. With many Ivorian artists, but everyone on their own. Then there was a lot more featuring, we asked others to sing on our albums and we sang on other albums as well. Now there is this kind of cooperation. Before, there was no featuring. Hello, I was wondering, as a couple and professionals, how do you guys balance, like professional work life while that was also shared with family life? Yes, we work well with the family, in Bamako, in Mali. There are some who are in France as well. We feel good, we travel. We are in France for a time, then we go to Mali. There are no problems. We succeed in having a professional life and family life at the same time. It is complicated, but it works because we have always sung that we have to understand each other. Family life needs communication, work also. We can work in family, it is easier with music. Bonsoir, non bonjour. I am curious about you as traditional musicians also worked with people in electronic music. We listened to some pieces with a lot of electronics. I would like to know whether for example you come from a background with a rhythm created by a group – is this difficult for you or have you embraced a rhythm that is dictated by a machine? How do you see this? As we said at the beginning, we do not exclude any music. We have been listening to electronic music for a long time, with pieces like Oxygène, we liked this music and also groups like Tangerine. We had a great taste for electronic music. When we came to Europe we were able to fulfil our dreams. We liked this type of music. Which is why we create fusion. We liked a lot disco and listened to it, Donna Summer, Boney M etc. Our mission is to blend, not only electronic music, but we have always liked it. We enjoy this element in our music. I have a question with a well-known voice. You lost your vision when you were 16, you are a guitarist. Did you learn to play through listening or did you learn it through music theory, for blind or seeing people, how did you learn your art? I started with music without knowing music theory. I played in bands, and later I learnt music theory. First of all I went to the National Arts Institute, where teachers taught us music theory. But when I went to the school for the blind I learnt music theory through braille. Which is how I learnt music theory in both worlds. In braille it is all with letters, quite complicated. There are octave keys but moving up and down is not possible in braille but there are signs indicating this. I did learn music theory without seeing, and when I went to the Institute I put this into practice. I know notation in braille, the different notes, the different keys. As I said, at Les Ambassadeurs everyone could read music, which formed me as well. I am self-educated, I read a lot, also in braille. I know both worlds. So, let’s put our hands together for Amadou and Mariam. Thank you so much. Thanks a lot, it was a great pleasure.