‘Se Te Djon Ye’ starts like a long lost Metallica song. A silky guitar running free, in a distinctive steady and folksy manner. Then that voice appears – not Metallica then. Or at least not just Metallica. Not entirely prepared to abandon my instinct, I consider that this is perhaps a new classic; a collaboration between a previously unknown African artist and the US heavy metal legends? Nope. Its Amadou & Mariam from start to finish. If I was ever surprised I should be equally ashamed.
Like the previous Amadou & Mariam song to make it onto the Hub – ‘Dougou Badia’ – this is may be another “chuffing great masterstroke of genre-less genre mixing“. But ‘Se Te Djon Ye’ is not genre-less (whatever that means). It is in fact a hint of where Amadou & Mariam began their on their journey to international acclaim. Having first released ‘Se Te Djon Ye’ in 1996 (some 17 years before ‘Dougou Badia’) its is an example of the couple’s very earliest commercial work; coming from a group of songs created and released on audio cassette solely for a domestic and African audience. The lead up to and “international break-through” success with the album Sou Ni Tilé in 1999 encouraged them to rediscover some of their earlier work. ‘Se Te Djon Ye’ became the title track on an album with a whole range of intriguing clues to the duo’s earliest influences and harks to a period of their artistry which was not created with a global audience immediately in mind.
Perhaps the influence of Metallica and other American and European rock bands did come in to play in these early days. But the 1990s was an age of learning for the Western world too. A well-told story is the one of the ‘discovery’ of Ali Farka Toure in 1993/94. More accurately: his arrival on the world music scene forced a realisation in the US that blues wasn’t entirely their invention, only a style borrowed and redeveloped. And so once again here, Amadou & Mariam’s piece points to the complex world of flowing and interconnected musical expansion which is so evident and enjoyed in the music of this west African country.
Sam Garbett is Public Affairs Coordinator for the Mali Development Group – www.malidg.org.uk.
To get in touch with Sam for further information he’d be happy to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org. Any comments and ideas for improving the Hub are especially welcome. We all look forward to hearing from you. Thanks for tuning in.
The Mali Interest Hub is an initiative run by the Mali Development Group, supported by the Alliance for Mali.