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
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Relocation, relocation: Zawe Ashton travels the pathway to Northampton
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

    An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

    Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

    The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
    How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

    Heavy weather

    What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
    World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

    World Bodypainting Festival 2015

    Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
    alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

    Don't call us nerds

    Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
    How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

    How to find gold

    Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
    Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

    Not born in the USA

    Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
    10 best balsamic vinegars

    10 best balsamic vinegars

    Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
    Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

    Greece referendum

    Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
    Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

    7/7 bombings anniversary

    Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

    Versace haute couture review

    Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
    No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

    No hope and no jobs in Gaza

    So the young risk their lives and run for it
    Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

    Fashion apps

    Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
    The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

    Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

    Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
    Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

    'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

    Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'