Musicians from Mali, Senegal, Congo join Damon Albarn, Brian Eno and others: “This is the best project I’ve ever been involved in in my whole career”

Foto (c)

Hier sehen Sie ein spannendes englischsprachiges Feature über das Musikprojekt AFRICA EXPRESS. Gibt es jemanden unter den LeserInnen, der das (oder Teile davon) übersetzen mag? Hallo Tanja!
La couverture française est en route.

1. Damon Albarn’s return trip on the Africa Express
Bamako (The Guardian) – 13 October 2013 22.02 BST
The Blur frontman joins Brian Eno and other global stars to show solidarity with musicians in troubled Mali
By Afua Hirsch

Link to video: Damon Albarn and Africa Express pop up in Malian capital Bamako
screenshot_theguardian10screenshot_theguardian5screenshot_theguardian_Little Playerscreenshot_theguardian6
Fotos (c) The Guardian: screenshots from the video / CLICK TO ZOOM

It may be just about the hottest new pop-up club in the world, but you have to look hard for the glamour. There is no red carpet and the bar has run out of beer. The decor leaves a lot to be desired: a brightly painted wall, some plastic chairs and dozens of palm trees.
Welcome to Bamako, the capital of Mali, not the most obvious choice for a star-studded club launch. Mali endured a wretched year in 2012, the northern half seized by a motley alliance of Islamists and Tuareg rebels, the president ousted in a coup and the country almost breaking in half before a French-backed government offensive turned the situation around. Northern Mali still dangles precariously between war and peace and Islamist rebels still make life uncomfortable for towns that until recently they occupied.screenshot_theguardian_bienvenue
But inside the Maison des Jeunes – a community space cum youth hostel near the banks of the River Niger – artists including Damon Albarn, Brian Eno, Idris Elba, and some of Europe and America’s brightest young producers – bop their heads in unison to the live performances taking place in a kind of defiance.
„I keep coming back to Mali, through everything that’s happened,“ said Albarn. „At times it has felt odd in Bamako, with the problems in the north, but I’m just trying to personally establish dialogue with the people in this country and the music.“
„The reason we are in Mali now is because of what’s happened here in the last year,“ said Ian Birrell, co-founder with Albarn of the Africa Express project.
„Malian artists are so brilliant. We wanted to come back as a form of solidarity and do the tiny bit we can do to promote the music that we love and revere.“
Albarn’s involvement with Malian music dates back to 2000, when a trip to the west African country with Oxfam led to an infatuation with its sounds that would see him record an album with Malian musicians Afel Bocoum and Toumani Diabaté.
In 2006 Albarn launched Africa Express – a joyfully chaotic series of collaborations between western and African artists, which last year led to 70 musicians taking over a chartered train. But the Blur frontman , now on his 13th trip to the West African country, says he is still in awe of Malian music, and insists he is not trying to change it or save anyone. He says the project is about his own evolution as an artist as much as anything else.
„From the first time I came here and played with Bassekou Kouyate, sweating and very nervous, playing one note over and over again with him, I’ve definitely improved,“ said Albarn. „However you describe it, it sounds annoying coming from someone like me, but that sense of transformation is really real.“
On the second floor of a building adjacent to the courtyard, in an airy studio that has seen better days – with mint-green plaster walls and tatty floor tiling – ambient music maestro Brian Eno sits at a plastic table immersed, working on his laptop.
Behind him Holy Other – the enigmatic, highly-rated R&B artist whose full identity remains a secret and who is only ever seen in public wearing a black shroud – is similarly occupied, and Wire star, DJ and producer Idris Elba breezes in and out. „I’m just listening. I don’t know what to do other than sit there with my mouth wide open,“ said Eno of the music being recorded by Malian artists in the building. „I don’t feel inclined to sample and make loops and play over the top – for me it’s too complete.“
There is a deliberate spontaneity in the way Albarn likes to work with African artists; the word „chaos“ is frequently used by everyone involved in Africa Express, usually spoken with a sense of pride at being involved in such an intense, cross-cultural musical frenzy.
The launch of live performances at the Maison des Jeunes coincides with the first attempt to produce an Africa Express album, as producers including Eno, Ghostpoet, Pauli the PSM from Gorillaz and Nick Zinner from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs work out which Malian artists to collaborate with, and set about recording and producing them in new ways.
„I have never done anything like this before,“ said Kankou Konyate, 21, lead singer of Gambari, whose enveloping vocals soar out over local n’goni lute rhythms. „Since the war things have been difficult, and complicated. But this is very good. It has really touched me having the opportunity to do new things with foreign artists now.“
Albarn, who has been critical of western celebrities patronising Africa in the past, says Africa Express is all about creating a level playing field and building connections, artist to artist.
But the group are also under no illusions about the state of Mali. Eno, on his first trip to sub-Saharan Africa since he visited Ghana in 1980, says he is shocked by how little progress has been made.
„I was quite surprised coming here how broken the place is,“ said Eno. „How the streets are terrible. The open sewers stink. It’s very disheartening in a way. But what is really strong here is social infrastructure – it’s so powerful and rich. My feeling is that Malian music draws attention to the richness of that social capital, and if you listen to it, you realise something about this society really is sorted.“
© 2013

Africa Express: This piece from our friends at the BBC explains a bit more about what we’re doing in Mali.
2. World stars of African Express seek to revive Mali’s music industry
Bamako (BBC Africa) – 14.10.13
By Manuel Toledo
A collective of musicians from around the world, known as Africa Express, is in the Malian capital, Bamako to give the music industry there a much-needed boost.
The event is taking place just a few months after the defeat, by French-led troops, of Islamist militants who took over the northern part of the country last year.
In their attempt to introduce Sharia (Islamic law), the militants destroyed ancient shrines and monuments and banned secular music in a country known for having some of the finest singers in Africa.
The Islamists decreed that only Koranic verses could be sung and started confiscating recordings from radio stations, destroying instruments and forcing artists to flee.

„Music is in language. It’s in everything”
Damon Albarn Co-founder, Africa Express

Two musical gatherings which used to attract performers and fans from all over the world – the Festival in the Desert, near Timbuktu, and the Festival on the Niger, in Segou – were cancelled.
For a nation where music is central to everyday life, this was a tragedy.
In a show of solidarity with Mali’s musicians – many of whom denounced at great personal risk what was happening in the north – artists working with Africa Express have come to Bamako to help revitalise the music scene.
„It’s totally abhorrent to any musician to be told they can’t play music… It’s a very particular interpretation of the Koran that prohibits all music,“ said Damon Albarn, one of the co-founders of The Africa Express.
„I mean, what is music itself? Music is everywhere, every day. If you’re gonna genuinely do that, you prohibit all sound because music is in language, it’s in everything,“ the former Blur and Gorillaz frontman told the BBC.

3Brian Eno, Damon Albarn and Olugbenga are among the Africa Express musicians taking part
Foto (c) BBC: Brian Eno, Damon Albarn and Olugbenga are among the Africa Express musicians taking part in the Malian recording project

‚Living music‘

Brian Eno Musician
„The players are so extraordinarily good that it does make me think I might consider another career”

He and around 20 other musicians and producers – among them the legendary Brian Eno, Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, Django Django’s David Maclean, Andre de Ridder, Olugbenga, and Fatoumata Diawara – have come to Bamako to source new talent. Their aim is to offer these new artists a starting point in their international careers.
Local artists were invited to perform at the Maison des Jeunes – one of Bamako’s favourite hangouts for young people.
For the last few days, members of Africa Express have been considering which ones to include in an album they are recording in an improvised studio on the site.
Brian Eno said that for him, the process of selecting the Malian musicians had been a humbling experience.
„I’ve just been listening to them and I said to Damon: ‚This is a week-long musical humiliation.‘ The players are so extraordinarily good that it does make me think I might consider another career,“ he told BBC Africa.
„The other thing about Mali is that this is a real living music. It’s not sort of a heritage music, it’s not some celebration of something that was great 50 years ago. This is a music that is living and changing now,“ he said.

BBC Young musicians have been auditioning for the chance to take part in the album
Foto (c) BBC:Young musicians have been auditioning for the chance to take part in the album

‚In love with Mali‘
For local musicians, this has been an extraordinary opportunity to showcase their work.
„For me, it’s been a huge surprise. It’s the first time I play with musicians who are not from Mali,“ said 20-year-old singer Kankou Kouyate, who captivated the Africa Express artists and producers. They have already recorded with her.
„It’s good to have foreign musicians coming to Mali because there are a lot of great artists here that need recognition for their work,“ she said.

Kankou Kouyate says the project is a huge opportunity
Foto (c) BBC:Kankou Kouyate says the project is a huge opportunity

Damon Albarn founded The Africa Express in 2006 after a chance meeting with journalist Ian Birrell after the Festival in the Desert.
„I came to Mali the first time in 2000… I fell in love with the music of this country and I found the people extremely receptive to ‚foreigners‘. It’s not a term I like to use,“ Albarn said.
„You know, I felt the culture was very sure of itself, had a very clear sense and connection with its past, and its oral tradition was still totally intact. I had never experienced that sort of immersion in music that I found here.“
The group’s first trip was, of course, Bamako but they have also taken musicians to Ethiopia, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
They have also produced live collaborations at events such as Glastonbury festival and the BBC’s Electric Proms.
Last year they toured the UK for a week on a train with some 80 leading musicians from Africa, Europe and other parts of the world.
Africa Express will also headline the Fiesta des Suds festival in the French city of Marseille on Saturday 19 October.
© 2013 BBC

“This is the best project I’ve ever been involved in in my whole career” – Baaba Maal

=>Damon Albarn and friends hop aboard the Africa Express
Published on Sep 2, 2012
A train carrying 80 musicians including some of Africa’s biggest stars is touring the UK. Interview with Baba Maal and Blur’s Damon Albarn, who came up with the Africa Express idea.

Foto (c) The Africa Express collective at Euston station prior to boarding for their week long tour.
Posted on September 24, 2012

=>Africa Express – The Story So Far (27 min)
Published on Mar 7, 2012
A documentary about Africa Express.

=>Africa Express: rolling coverage
The Guardian – 02.09.2012


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