Africa Express, Hotel de Ville, Paris

4.00

Journey to the heart of Africa

It wasn't so much Dimanche à Bamako as Mercredi à Paris. After Britain, Congo, and Nigeria, the Africa Express pulled into the French capital this week in all its freewheeling, chaotic glory.

Against the splendid backdrop of the Hotel de Ville, more than 100 musicians including Amadou and Mariam, The Magic Numbers, Tony Allen, The Kooks, and Rachid Taha jammed their way through an enthralling seven-hour set.

Africa Express burst into life in 2005, a riposte to the Live 8 concerts that had a distinctly un-African line-up, despite their goal of focusing attention on the continent. On its French debut, the collaboration between African and Western musicians threw up the same thrilling combinations that devotees have come to expect.

Speech Debelle, the south London hip-hop artist recently shortlisted for the Mercury prize, teamed up with flamboyant Senegalese rapper Sister Fa, with the pair's rapid-fire lyrics switching seamlessly between French, English and Wolof, Fa's local dialect.

Amid the riotous explosion of carnivalesque showmanship that was Ebony Bones, the barely swaying Malian musician Bassekou Kouyate was an oasis of calm. Like many of the artistic hook-ups, he had only the briefest of rehearsals with the British band inside the vaulted hallways of the Paris town hall beforehand, yet the haunting strings of his ngoni offered a natural counterpoint to the group's raucous electro-punk.

The crowd was as ethnically and linguistically diverse as the star-studded line-up. The Malians and Senegalese diaspora were out in force, gyrating with pride to their countrymen's tunes; German and American tourists strolling along the Seine ventured over to see what all the fuss was about.

Vieux Farka Toure brought his guitar and the spirit of his deceased father, the legendary Africa blues star, Ali; Malian diva Oumou Sangare brought her piercing vocals. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, the nine-piece from Chicago bounced around the stage as if their lives depended on it; and there was an appearance from Corinne Bailey Rae, her first gig since the death of her husband last year.

The revolving door of performers was bewildering for the 18,000-strong crowd, but eventually they stopped trying to work out who was who, and surrendered to the music. Midnight approached, and Mariam delivered a spine-tingling rendition of "Sabali", accompanied by Damon Albarn on the keyboard. The gathered masses swayed as one under the full moon. Amadou and his gold guitar swiftly joined his wife on stage and the blind Malian duo added their delicate blend of harmonies to the vocals of Magic Numbers frontman, Romeo Stodart.

Paris demanded an encore, and Albarn and Taha belted out "Rock the Casbah". There was something of a karaoke flavour to their rendition of The Clash's classic as they tossed the microphone between them, the Algerian rocker singing the verses, the Britpop legend the refrain, and others piling in with backing vocals.

Then, suddenly, the musical marathon was over and the Hotel de Ville crowd evaporated into the night.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power