Amadou And Miriam With The Beating Wing Orchestra

The OM’s UK headquarters has been without internet this past week, so reporting on the Manchester International Festival has been rather trying. Quaint teashops with lovely sandwiches and free wi-fi are great but it’s difficult for this bivalve to muster the concentration necessary to write something other than: I heart teashops in summer.

Tuesday night, Miss Mussel attended a concert given by the Malian duo Amadou and Miriam in the Festival Pavilion, which is basically a giant tent erected in Albert Square behind the Town Hall. It was hot, the air was close and for the first time in her life, Miss Mussel was in the front row, close enough to touch the musician should she have chosen to do so.

All of the songs on the program were written by the duo years ago in Mali but have not been performed in the UK before now. Since December 2008, Amadou et Miriam have been collaborating with Manchester’s Beating Wing Orchestra as part of an MIF commission. The BWO is made up of asylum seekers and refugees from various countries in Africa as well as Iran, China, Brazil and the UK.

The first two pieces were performed by Amadou et Miriam only. Although they perform as a duo, it is immediately obvious that Amadou is the one with the voice. At 55, his voice is strong and clear with just enough rasp to make it interesting. Miriam sings an octave higher than most pop singers. This works well when she is doubling a line with her husband but is a bit shrill on its own. The two songs were lovely enough but rather unmemorable especially compared to what came next.

As soon as the BWO took the stage, the oppressive, stuffy air inside the tent became a distant memory. The percussion section comprised of Pat Mackman, Yves Agadi and the young Brazilian Aisha Lourenco was absolutely electrifying. Amadou and Miriam’ gentle blues suddenly became more insistent and heads started bopping as everyone got to the groove.

Here are a few recorded snippets. Recording quality is poor at best, but is enough to give you an idea of the sound.
[audio: http://theomniscientmussel.com/audio/Miriam-Amadou.mp3]

Photographs [click to open slideshow]

Here is Amadou and Miriam on their own with Je Pense A Toi [I Think Of You]

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