Amadou & Mariam bring the African spirit to Roskilde’s final day

**** (4 stars out of 6); July 8 at Orange, Roskilde Festival

The crowd was sparse when Amadou & Mariam first came onto the Orange stage last night, but it didn’t take long until their melodious West African music lured the masses into their clutches. Mariam Doumbia wore a neutral expression for most of the performance and while Amadou Bagayoko was more smiley, it is more than possible that the blind couple had no real perception of how many Roskilde revellers had come to see them play.

After being introduced as a favourite fixture to the Roskilde lineup over the years, the pair from Mali –who have been deemed West Africa’s first couple to play blues-rock – were led onto stage by festival staff and propped in front of the microphones. They didn’t move much from that spot for the whole show, which had the potential to make the performance too static. But their band members, especially the dreadlocked drummer and the backup dancers, provided the necessary movement on stage.

Their musical style mashes up funk, jazz, tribal song and pop, and the uplifting and joyous mood it creates makes people want to unleash their inhibitions and dance. By the time the group played ‘Africa’ off their 2008 album, Welcome To Mali, the audience was in the right frame of mind. In the pit, the crowd was dancing manically, with some clusters following the moves exhibited by the two groovy backup dancers dressed in matching orange, red and yellow outfits. Doumbia was wrapped like a present with a huge electric blue bow on the top of her head and Bagayoko was clad in complementary blue and gold.

Bagayoko and Doumbia bantered a little between songs, mostly repeating the same questions again and again: “Comment ça va?” and “Are you okay?” It was endearing. Their audience interaction and simple show setup made the two seem really humble, especially considering they have toured with the likes of Blur, Coldplay and Scissor Sisters. Amadou & Mariam have also collaborated with a number of big names, including Santigold, who was a special guest on the track ‘Dougou Badia’ off their eighth album, Folila, released earlier this year. This reviewer hoped the two might perform a song together at Roskilde, but a timetable clash crushed that dream.

But that was a tall order. Dancing along to ‘Welcome To Mali’ in the Sunday sunshine was a beautiful way to see four days of music to a close.