Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn is back in Mali and recording a new album featuring local musicians and a host of international stars including producer Brian Eno, The Wire/Luther star and DJ Idris Elba, Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, Ghostpoet and Holy Other.
The album is part of the Africa Express project Albarn started back in 2006, although his involvement with Mali dates back to 2000 when he visited with Oxfam and was inspired to record the Mali Music album with local musicians Afel Bocoum and Toumani Diabate.
Speaking to the Observer about the project, Albarn said:
I keep coming back to Mali, through everything that’s happened. 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.
Speaking of Mali and its music, Brian Eno said:
I was quite surprised coming here how broken the place is. 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.
As well as recording a new album, there will be an Africa Express show at Doc des Suds in Marseille on 19 October featuring Albarn and Zinner as well as famed afrobeat drummer Tony Allen, The Noisettes and some of Django Django amongst many others.
Watch Damon Albarn explain more about Africa Express below: