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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones