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Andy's Africa Express Experience
TV Presenter and music aficionado Andy Akinwolere photographed and reviewed the triumphant African Express for See Africa Differently, for which we thank him
The Africa Express train lead by its conductor Damon Albarn has steam rolled audiences across the country to huge applause. London was its final destination and the tribe rolled in and performed their ritualistic tones with supernatural and exuberant success.
This was an opportunity for the UK public to view Africa’s best musical talents. In a feat of organized chaos all the performers complemented each other and played in surprising unity. As a fan of African music and the music of its diaspora this was a chance to see up close a group of musicians I felt I related to but were always distant shores away from my ears, either that or they played in locations of such grandeur their accessibility has been limited.
We were blessed with many highlights; the best of UK hip-hop talent in the likes of Kano and Bashy joined on stage by cult American MC M1 (Dead Prez) in a rendition of Dead Prez’s `’Hip-Hop” with faithful in the crowd bobbing their heads and throwing their fists in the air. Beatboxing came in the way of Reeps One and the north African Egyptian MC Karim Rush
Other highlights included an ingenious duet with creator Damon Albarn and the sensational Rokia Traoré, making sure there was not a dry eye in the house. It was a moment we all stood still and watched the magnetic musical chemistry two very accomplished musicians provided.
Rokia Traoré played a part in more of the highlights in the evening as two legends of music acted as her backing guitarists Sir Paul Mcartney (who was a surprise) and also John Paul Jones (Led Zeplin). They both went on to play later on in the evening making it a truly high profile and global affair.
As an African it was great to see the likes of Africa Boy, Baloji, Fatoumata Diawara, Bassekou Kouyate, M.anifest, Shingai Shonowiwa (The Noisettes) Spoek Mathambo, Amadou, Baaba Maal, and so many more of Africa’s treasures showing off the breath of the continents creativity and versatility. I was watching in awe as our people stood up there proud and unphased. It might sound quite patronising to say, but I’ve only ever seen Seun Kuti at the National Theatre and the audiences are completely different, this felt like a street party and we were all invited to take part.
There are two African artists that I wish I could have seen live and also whom I feel could have been a welcome addition to the passengers of the train: the late great Fela Kuti and equally the superbly talented Ali Fakar Toure. This concert though was a unique creative experience on mass scale, with the likes of Terri Walker, Elisa Doolittle, Marques Toliver Gruff Rhys et al aiding its eclectic prowess.
I was truly proud to view this showcase of music; we could have done with a few more Africans in the crowd though. Next time I most definitely will be hitching a ride and jumping onboard this improvised performance, just like the great continent itself you never quite know what you’re going to get.
“I think it's important for everyone to experience cultures different to their own. Living in London we have the opportunity to do it a little bit more because it's so multicultural here but you can imagine the locals faces when the Africa Express train pulled up in Stoke on Trent and treated them to a jam session by some of the best African musicians out there. Its inspiring. I feel spoilt myself every time I get to hear those musicians play” - Kano
TV Presenter, writer, photographer, deep sea swimmer, Yoruba speaker there are many strings to Andy's bow. He is passionate about Africa and the stories it has to tell...
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