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The Africa Express
Imagine 80 leading musicians from Africa, Europe and across the globe, convening on a train and then driving that train around the UK for a week perfoming, jamming and generally having a good time? Well that is exactly what happened on The Africa Express, for seven days African music was taken all across the UK in a riotus celebration of music and culture.
Luckily for us photographer and writer Ellen Doherty went to watch and listen (but alas didn't actually travel on) The Africa Express in Bristol and asked some of the artists about their experience.
Here's the first of her interviews with Dead Prez's M1
How has the Africa Express experience been for you?
Magnanimous, fantastic, surreal, seamless, International… 11 on a scale of 10. It has reaffirmed what I already knew - that Africa is the future music
That the sounds of the past, though stolen and manipulated are all from the root of the same place, and even someone like DA is astute enough to show the world that this is the best music – when we combine what we have learned with what we already know. The only reason I am here is because of the unsung heroes, when I see the sister from the Noisettes, when I see brother Balouji, when I see Mensa and Manifest who I’ve known for years, when I see Baaba Maal and Tony Allen, it just makes me know I’m in the best place for music right now on the planet. There is no better place where music is happening, in any studio, any place in the world, than right now and right here. And I say that emphatically. I know it.
What do you see for the future of African music?
Well, you know this thing is not new news, in the future we will see more artists who are putting their heart and soul into the making of these rhythms – We see the drum here, not only the talking drum, Baaba Maals’ front man speaks to him through the drum, and its an amazing experience. So we are able to see instrumentation being used in a way that people are not used to seeing it on stage. We’re carving out a future right here for African and Pop music. The Bots are Punk Pop. And they are here in the middle of it all. Amadou is like super duper funky Africa soul, and he’s with Jon from Reverend and the Makers… This is the best shit.
What do you think musicians from the UK and America could learn from African artists?
Patience! These guys have waited all their lives for this. Afel from Mali gets on stage every night and says: “These aren’t my clothes. I’m wearing someone else’s clothes” and he says that because in Mali, there is a breakdown in government that has made him flee his home. So he is here standing in front of us and using this as his platform to tell the world that shit is fucked up there. And he is the first artist on stage every night. And that to me is the most important statement – saying ‘here is my message. This is where I am from, and not only that I use this as my vehicle outside my whole environment to say feel this’.
I was worried that this could be a euphoric celebration of multiculturalism and there would be no realness – and I’m so happy that I was able to feel it and to know it is coming across to the audience.
Have you ever performed in Africa yourself? What was the experience like?
I’ve been all over – North, South, East to West. The Arabian Knightz I know from Cairo, The Very Best are my favourite group. Baloji is one of my favourite solo artists – I’m in Africa and I’m in heaven. I’m coming to Africa as much as I can I and I want to connect the voices of Africa to aid its journey back to prominence. Africa is coming back to the top, that’s for sure, one way or another.
For more of Ellen's pictures visit here