When HIV/AIDs non-profit Red Hot approached duo SOFI TUKKER about contributing a song for the Red Hot + Free album (to be released 2 July), the two musicians—Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern—decided their dream collaboration would be with the legendary Amadou & Mariam. Amadou Bagayoko and Mariam Doumbia met at Mali’s Institute for the Young Blind and have been making music together since the ’80s. Their genre-bending style combines instruments and influences from all over the world to create a sound that’s undeniably vibrant. That vibrancy proves a perfect match for SOFI TUKKER’s music, which is a melange of everything from bossa nova to ’90s house.
Together, the foursome remotely recorded “Mon Cheri“—released today—for the album (which will also feature Billy Porter, Ultra Naté, Casey Spooner, Sam Sparro and others) which intends to provide optimism and escape for listeners. Beyond the album, Red Hot continues to work with local grassroots in order to erase the stigma associated with HIV/AIDs while advocating for marginalized people who are affected by the disease, by fighting for better access to care, education and community support. Proceeds from the sale of all songs on Red Hot + Free will go to The Ally Coalition, Trevor Project and SAGE—organizations dedicated to the LGBTQ community.
Both Hawley-Weld and Halpern are Amadou & Mariam fans; Hawley-Weld grew up listening to them and the two say they bonded over their love of the Bamako, Mali-based duo. For Bagayoko and Doumbia, the collaboration was an opportunity to explore and expand. “We have had the opportunity to collaborate with many artists throughout our career, Damon Albarn, Flea, Manu Chao, David Gilmour, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Scissor Sisters,” they say. “For us it’s a way to grow, explore new sounds and learn. To share and enjoy the music.”
While the song was recorded remotely, everybody involved says the process was actually more natural than perhaps expected. “It actually felt extremely organic to create this song remotely. The process was easy, as many of the best songs are. It just flowed,” Hawley-Weld and Halpern tell us. “We sent over the guitar, they sent over their vocals and then we wrote a new vocal melody (along with the Brazilian poet Chacal) to match the tone and lyrical content of theirs. They replayed the guitar part to give it their signature guitar sound and we added some electronic elements to really bring it into our world. It feels like the perfect combination of both of our worlds and the process couldn’t have been more fun. Except perhaps if we had been able to meet and jam in person!”
Bagayoko and Doumbia echo that sentiment. “The truth is that it was quite simple,” they explain. “SOFI TUKKER gave us a lot of freedom when it came to composing. The important thing was to connect with our essence and the message we wanted to give with this song… With ‘Mon Cheri’ everything went very smoothly, we immediately felt where the song had to go and we contributed our sound.”
The buoyant, energized “Mon Cheri” manifests as the perfect pastiche of their respective sounds. Bagayoko and Doumbia agree that “The song is festive and universal and we hope people really like it.” For Hawley-Weld and Halpern, the song “feels like love and energy.”
When it comes to the song’s release into the world, all four simply want it to offer a moment of joy for listeners. Bagayoko and Doumbia say, “After more than a very hard year for everyone, after many injustices and bad news, we want people to be able to enjoy a bit of music again, to escape for a few minutes and let themselves be carried away by a festive sound that makes them dance. We want them to enjoy and love without limits and with respect.”
Hero image courtesy of Red Hot