Damon Albarn and Ghostpoet performed a live version of their collaborative track ‘Season Change’ last night (December 9) at the launch of Africa Express’ new album ‘Maison des Jeunes’ at London’s Oval Space.
Featuring Ghostpoet on lead vocals and Albarn on piano and backing vocals, track also featured Malian singer Bijou. As well as lending his piano skills to ‘Season Change’, Albarn also played with Bijou on her track ‘Dougoudé Sarrafo’.
Malian duo Kankou Kouyate opened the evening, while Songhoy Blues – making their debut outside of their home country – were joined by Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, who had flown over from New York to perform a rendition of ‘Soubour’, a track from ‘Maison des Jeunes’ featuring both artists.
Earlier in the evening, Albarn, Ghostpoet, Brian Eno, Metronomy’s Olugbenga Adelekan and Songhoy Blues singer Garba Touré took part in a short Q&A session about the record, which was recorded in Mali in a week-long session earlier this year.
When questioned as to why he had chosen Mali as a location, Albarn pointed towards the recent conflict in the North of the country, stating that, “because of what happened in the North, it seemed that music had been unjustly censored and it was necessary to remind the world at large that there is an enormous wealth of talent within the country”.
Eno, meanwhile, continued Albarn’s praise of the Malian musicians they had worked with. “I said to Damon before we came out that I expected it to be 10 days of musical humiliation and it was,” he joked. “The skill of the players made me want to become a carpenter or a bricklayer, but I’m no good at either of them so I’m stuck. The roots of rock and roll came from there, so it was like going to see where we nicked all our ideas from.”
Adelekan, originally from Nigeria, commented on the importance of visiting Mali and other specific areas of the continent, stating, “People think of Africa as one monolithic whole, but the difference between Mali and Nigeria is as different as between England and Italy.”
Albarn concluded by talking about the speedy timeframe of the record’s creation: “I tried [making a record in a week] once before and it worked. It focuses everyone and it’s possible, so there should be a law passed that all records are made in a week and if they’re not, they don’t count.”
‘Maison des Jeunes’, the second ‘Africa Express presents…’ album to be released, features international artists including Albarn, Ghostpoet, Adelekan, Nick Zinner and Dave Maclean of Django Django alongside a host of African musicians including rapper Tal B Halala, Bijou, Adama Koita and Songhoy Blues, who have been described as “The Smiths crossed with Ali Farka Touré”. It is also significant as it marks a return to Mali, where the project initially began in 2008.