Hailed as the most revolutionary force in popular music for two decades, Africa Express brings together musicians from different cultures, genres and generations to break boundaries and offer a new perspective on Africa and its music. Each event is unique, based upon on-the-spot collaboration and filled with unique moments of magic.
It was founded in 2006 with a trip to Mali linking the likes of co-founder Damon Albarn, Martha Wainwright and Fatboy Slim with local stars such as Toumani Diabaté, Bassekou Kouyaté and Amadou & Mariam. Then came the first public event: a legendary five-hour show at Glastonbury described by The Times as “an absolute lose-yourself epiphany for everyone who was there”.
Africa Express has since hosted trips to Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, South Africa and Mali. It has also staged lauded shows in Lagos, London and Liverpool, as well as festivals across Europe such as Roskilde in Denmark and bespoke shows before 25,000 people in Paris city centre and 50,000 on a Spanish beach. Each performance is unique, with artists taking part creating the set before the show, and all have been met with rave reviews, inspiring artists and audiences alike.
In 2012, Africa Express filled a vintage train with 100 African and Western artists to play a week of shows across England, Wales and Scotland as part of the London 2012 Olympic Festival. The extraordinary tour, with performances in shops, schools and station platforms as well as more traditional venues, made waves worldwide with the likes of Baaba Maal and Carl Barat touring together. The final five-hour gig at King’s Cross saw Bassekou Kouyaté, Damon Albarn, Fatoumata Diawara, John Paul Jones, Gruff Rhys, Paul McCartney and Rokia Traoré all performing together at one stage.
The following year Africa Express returned to Bamako, Mali following the coup and Islamist takeover in the north to record two critically acclaimed albums (Africa Express Presents… Maison des Jeunes and Africa Express Presents… Terry Riley’s In C Mali) with local artists. The In C Mali live performance project has subsequently been performed in partnership with Ruhrtriennale, Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris and The Space / Tate Modern.
In 2016 more than 50 Syrian musicians and singers were reunited by Africa Express as The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians for a European tour alongside guests including Damon Albarn, Rachid Taha, Paul Weller and Bassekou Kouyaté. For many of the Syrians, it was the first time they had seen each other since the outbreak of conflict five years earlier. The widely acclaimed tour, and subsequent album, helped highlight and celebrate the remarkable music culture of Syria, providing a more positive perspective than seen in the news.
Last year saw Africa Express head to Johannesburg, South Africa to record an electronic album in a week of discovery, collaboration, music-making and live performances. MOLO – a 4 track EP – was released in March and a new studio album titled EGOLI is coming on 12th July 2019 on newly created Africa Express Records.
On 29 March 2019, Africa Express played a sold-out one-off gig in a circus tent in Leytonstone to headline the Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture celebrations, a show described by Uncut as “… proof that music is a universally understood language … a celebration designed to bring joy.”