Release Date: Jul 12, 2019
Record label: Africa Express Records
Africa Express may have made headlines earlier this year when they played a show in Leytonstone to celebrate Waltham Forest being named as the London Borough Of Culture for 2019 but they go back much further than that. They are an amorphous, inclusive collective that can be traced back to 2005, when Damon Albarn and journalist Ian Birrell joined forces to conceive the idea. What followed was a series of events, gatherings and collaborations across Africa and Europe where Western musicians would play alongside African artists, promoting messages of unity, tolerance and cultural diversity.
This collaborative record, featuring Damon Albarn, Gruff Rhys, Moonchild Sanelly and more, is a scattershot and hedonistic diary. It's the collective's best work to date Earlier this year, Africa Express played one of their biggest gigs to date at Waltham Forest in Leytonstone, east London. It was a diverse jamboree of artists that included Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell, South Africa’s Moonchild Sanelly - who describes her sound as "future ghetto punk" - and Blur's Damon Albarn, the collective's most recognisable name on these shores.
Damon Albarn sure likes to keep himself busy. Having had a brief sit down after the Gorillaz world tour, he returns with Africa Express, his cross-cultural exchange of music's best and brightest from around the world. If you're after a party playlist, look no further: a celebration of the house music scene growing in South Africa, 'EGOLI' is a force of energy, from the pulsating 'City In Lights’ to the slower groove of 'Johannesburg'.
F ive albums in, and Africa Express - Damon Albarn's cross-cultural collaboration engine - has pitched up in Johannesburg, known as Egoli in Xhosa. It could be the best iteration yet of this speed-dating pop writer's camp, in which a handful of UK and US artists (Nick Zinner, a returnee, plus Super Furry Gruff Rhys and grime MC Ghetts, to name three) and a 20-stong cast of local producers, musicians, singers and groove-bringers pull an album together in a week. Thanks to South Africa's vast natural resources of dance music, both traditional and bleeding-edge, Egoli is a party album almost end to end, an update on Buraka Som Sistema's Angolan-Portuguese rave dynamics and more like a Gorillaz record than anything you might normally file under "world music".