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Carlos Ncube

When you come across music that is sung in a language you don’t understand, the initial reaction is an urge to learn the language to lessen the confusion. But you quickly realise that you can’t learn every language and so you settle like the dead poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and tell yourself: “Music is the universal language of mankind – poetry their universal pastime and delight.”

Amadou and Mariam's La Confusion is an eclectic mix of sounds.

For a South African English- and Zulu-speaking reviewer, this is the experience felt while listening to Amadou and Mariam. The Blind Couple of Mali’s new album La Confusion is no exception – it transcends language barriers much like the other seven albums the duo has released since 1983.

Amadou and Mariam create eclectic music. La Confusion is a product of the world, for the world. When you listen to it, you feel as if you’re travelling around the globe at a thousand miles an hour, collecting a colourful variety of sounds, each with their own distinct flavour and scent. Uncertain of the outcome, you put the ingredients together, preheat the oven and in the end digest a rich meal of culinary-sonic art.

La Confusion borrows from the couple’s musical ancestry and fuses with rock to break the rules of genre-specific compositions.

Each song has a point of reference to a sound that the listener can relate to ...

When you come across music that is sung in a language you don’t understand, the initial reaction is an urge to learn the language to lessen the confusion. But you quickly realise that you can’t learn every language and so you settle like the dead poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and tell yourself: “Music is the universal language of mankind – poetry their universal pastime and delight.”

Amadou and Mariam’s La Confusion is an eclectic mix of sounds.

For a South African English- and Zulu-speaking reviewer, this is the experience felt while listening to Amadou and Mariam. The Blind Couple of Mali’s new album La Confusion is no exception – it transcends language barriers much like the other seven albums the duo has released since 1983.

Amadou and Mariam create eclectic music. La Confusion is a product of the world, for the world. When you listen to it, you feel as if you’re travelling around the globe at a thousand miles an hour, collecting a colourful variety of sounds, each with their own distinct flavour and scent. Uncertain of the outcome, you put the ingredients together, preheat the oven and in the end digest a rich meal of culinary-sonic art.

La Confusion borrows from the couple’s musical ancestry and fuses with rock to break the rules of genre-specific compositions.

Each song has a point of reference to a sound that the listener can relate to. In the opening track ‘Bofou Safou’ listeners can hear a bassline and string selection similar to South African DJ Mbuso’s 8-bit influenced ‘Soweto Funk’.

The sonic genius of the album does not end here. Sounds similar to Masterpieces of Koto by Japanese musician Michio Miyagi, spliced with drums and synths can be heard throughout the offering.

The more you delve into the album, the deeper you go into a rabbit hole of soundscapes that resemble those you’d find in classic video games. ‘Filaou Bessame’ sounds like the Mortal Combat theme but with Sub-Zero and Johnny Cage fighting to the death in the Sahara.

Most of La Confusion is fast-paced and danceable, save for ‘Ta Promesse’ and ‘Mokou Mokou’ which are more sombre. In the title track ‘La Confusion’ Amadou shows off his guitar soloing skills in a song best described by the dessert blues idiom.

Amadou and Mariam provide an unmistakable Malian signature to La Confusion. This canvas of the Sahel is embroidered by different areas and eras of the world – effectively giving this offering a multidimensional property where the listener is teleported from one culture to another and from the past into future in just 12 tracks.

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