Africa Express
Africa Express

Africa Express

About Africa Express

Africa Express began as a reaction to the lack of African musicians featured in the 2005 Live 8 charity concert, but over the next decade, it evolved into a multifaceted charity and musical collective. While the lineup is ever-shifting, the musical group Africa Express is anchored by Damon Albarn -- the Brit-pop veteran who made it a mission to look outside his home country after his group Blur became stars -- and always keeps the spotlight on cross-cultural collaborations between African and Western musicians.
The instigating incident for Albarn and his partner Ian Birrell was Live 8, which was a benefit concert for debt relief for Africa yet failed to include more than a single African artist in lineups that spanned the globe. Africa Express was unveiled at the Festival au Desert in Mali in 2006 with a performance that featured Albarn, Fatboy Slim, and Martha Wainwright. The following year, Africa Express played a five-hour set at the Glastonbury Festival; in addition to a returning Albarn and Fatboy Slim, K'naan, Baaba Maal, the Magic Numbers, and Billy Bragg were featured.
A series of Africa Express shows -- all featuring different lineups orchestrated by Albarn -- happened in 2008, then in 2009 the collective's history was chronicled in the documentary Africa Express -- The Story So Far. An album called Africa Express Presents… appeared in 2009 as well.
In 2012, Africa Express played as part of the Cultural Olympiad surrounding the London Olympic Games. The next album from Africa Express was Maison des Jeunes in 2013, which was recorded with Brian Eno. The group's version of Terry Riley's In C -- the only version of this contemporary classical standard recorded by an African group -- followed in 2014. Africa Express' 2015 was highlighted by a five-hour set at the Roskilde Festival in Denmark that culminated in Albarn being carried off-stage. In 2016, they toured with the Orchestra of Syrian Musicians, which was documented on an album of the same name. In 2019, Africa Express released Egoli, which featured contributions from Gruff Rhys and Nick Zinner; it was preceded by the EP Molo, which contained songs later featured on Egoli. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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