Amadou et Mariam release a new EP “Bofou Safou”

Don’t expect a still frame of African music. Stillness has never been part of their repertoire. The road stretches far behind them as Amadou & Mariam march on, bound by an unbreakable chain in their tireless search for new horizons. Creativity and generosity have never ceased to shine through the eight full-length albums the Malian couple has released over the years. At their core lies a skillful fusion of heritage and cutting-edge music.

“Bofou Safou” feels like an instant classic, an earworm that will lodge itself in the listener’s brain and wipe away any frustration caused by the five-year hiatus in Amadou & Mariam’s release of new material. There is no sense of complacency here, nor are there any gimmicks. Just Afrobeat-disco in its boldest form. Backed by the outstanding production work of Adrien Durand, arranger of French band Bon Voyage Organisation, the track stands out as an exhilarating tribute to infectious grooves and dancefloor culture.

In Bambara (Mali’s national language), bofou safou is a nickname referring to those on the all-play-and-no-work end of the spectrum. “One has to work in life / Can’t cross your arms in life / Make yourself useful in life.” Mariam’s ingenuous warning is a compassionate one. Whimsical captions appear on the song’s video, as if an invitation to the whole world to sing and dance along.

Afrobeat’s universal appeal has led acclaimed musicians and producers to put their own spin on the song. German artist Henrik Schwarz, who formerly reworked the Malian duo’s “Je Pense A Toi,” serves up an immersive deep-house interpretation of “Bofou Safou.” Early summer vibes are provided by Africaine 808, a.k.a. Dirk Leyers and Hans Reuschl, as they slather catchy futuristic sounds onto Mariam’s vocal hooks. Lully’s version offers a slow saunter through urban landscapes, while Fatima Yamaha, Dutch producer Bas Baron’s female alias, delivers a uniquely funky remix. Lastly, Vasco’s trademark sultry, sparse approach lends a cathartic quality to the track.

The EP also features a second original song, “Filaou Bessame,” with traditional instrumentation, free flowing saxophone lines and female harmonies. A full album, La Confusion, is slated for release in the fall.