Express delivery from Africa
African musicians take to Britain's railways
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Saturday 18 August 2012
Africa Express began in a Covent Garden bar, in a mood of fury at the 2005 Live8 concert, which proposed to end African debt and poverty while finding room for only one African artist, Youssou N'Dour, on its bill. The condescension, the feeling that even musically Africa should sit still for hand-outs, rankled with music industry friends, led by Damon Albarn, who were gathered.
Their response was an open-ended project of border-blasting musical exploration, based around a series of often spontaneous, night-long gigs in venues ranging from a Brixton pub and Glastonbury, to the late Fela Kuti's legendary Lagos club, The Shrine. In the last six years, Africa Express has seen artists including Franz Ferdinand, Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea, and Baaba Maal visiting each others' countries, playing and exchanging ideas.
Now, the latest chapter will see a literal Africa Express taking to Britain's railways for a week, as part of the Cultural Olympiad. Passengers will include Albarn, Amadou & Mariam, Baaba Maal, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, Bombay Bicycle Club's Jack Steadman, Tony Allen, Toumani Diabaté, Carl Barat and Rizzle Kicks. Many will be living together on the train, which will have a special carriage for music-making. "The hope," says journalist and Africa Express co-founder Ian Birrell, "is as it travels around the artists can get to know each other, rehearse and work things out."
In the spirit of the early Africa Express shows, which would turn up with little or no announcement, there will also be a series of pop-up performances. "We're open to suggestion," says Birrell. "We'll play anywhere from houses to workplaces, through to prisons, shopping centres, units for homeless people. The idea is really to flood places with music, to take it to people."
The achievements of a project based on informal musical dialogue are hard to quantify. But Birrell points to concrete success. "There are hard achievements, such as the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album having a track called "Ethiopia" based on their experiences on Africa Express, and when you see Nick Zinner working with Amadou & Mariam on their latest album, and Bassekou Kouyate working with young British rappers... Equally it's just getting people to open up and collaborate more, and getting more African music in clubs, and opening people's eyes and ears to learning from Africa."
The Africa Express tour begins on 3 September at Middlesbrough Town Hall (www.africaexpress.co.uk)
TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success
tvU2’s latest record has been accused of promoting sex between men
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Which country would be hardest to invade?
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 4 Royal baby girl born: Duchess of Cambridge's second child will be a princess thanks to Queen
- 5 Uploading pictures to find out how old you are gives Microsoft the right to post them wherever they want
Daredevil, Netflix, TV review: Marvel wins first fight in bid for television domination with Charlie Cox's superhero vigilante
London art exhibition features portrait of Iraqi migrant shot dead in Iraq after being refused UK asylum
Grace Dent on TV: Peter Kay's Car Share made me genuinely LOL
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
London Marathon: Best running songs from Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to 'Uptown Funk'
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
Indonesia executions live: 'Hysterical' families heard prisoners being shot dead by firing squad
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
EU exit would hit UK economy much harder than neighbouring countries, study finds