M.anifest – “A whole lifetime in a week” aboard the Africa Express


M.anifest and M3nsa on the mic at Africa Express, Creative Commons, Bristol. Photo by Brian Okello

Mid-Morning on Sunday 2 September, I sauntered towards Euston in London with Jupiter Bokondji from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and about 15 other musicians from Mali and Senegal. Most of us had only just met. It was a colourful group that drew curious stares. Among us I would guess at least eight languages were spoken. We all had only just a vague idea of where the station was, yet if we were anxious about finding it or getting there on time none of us wore that anxiety visibly. As we walked, other musicians on the tour joined us and we all got to Euston without making a wrong turn and without any one to shepherd us there.

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Spoek Mathambo, Jack Steadman and Peter Hook play ‘Control’ at Africa Express, The Ritz, Manchester. Photo by Simon Phipps

“This is the best project I’ve ever been involved in in my whole career” – Baaba Maal

“Making music in Mali with Africa Express was amazing, humbling, life changing experience, a time in my life I will never forget. I’m just so happy I went with my gut extinct and got involved. Being on the album is just an added bonus really” – Ghostpoet
‘The Africa Express was one of the most worthwhile and enjoyable projects I have ever been involved in… A true reminder of why I started playing music in the first place… I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”  – Carl Barat (The Libertines)

“Africa and its’ friends were there on the train around the UK, the music was beautiful, the audience amazed..! I was elated by this extraordinary and unique adventure, which also happened to be an opportunity for me to spend time with artists that I love and I do not often get to see. I thank all the organizers for their concern about our comfort and our serenity. I miss you all!” – Rokia Traore

“I was a pleasure for me to live through this train experience. Never has a train been so musical.  I loved the sense of togetherness and complicity between the artists, and I also really appreciated the ‘pop ups’ when I had the opportunity to play in hospitals and schools.  Africa Express is magical every time.  Thanks to everyone.” – Amadou Bagayoko (Amadou & Mariam)

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Africa Express Pop-Ups in Bradford during Train Tour


FROM THE NME: Africa Express in Glasgow, “A timely reminder of the power and joy of music”


Ride with the Africa Express Train


FROM THE INDEPENDENT: ‘My Week on the Africa Express’ by Jack Steadman


Bombay Bicycle Club’s Jack Steadman gives the inside track on what it was like to be one of the performers on Damon Albarn’s magical mystery tour of the UK

Jack Steadman – Saturday, 15 September 2012

“You’re on next Jack,” I was told. I had arrived in Glasgow just hours before, joining up with this mad circus they called Africa Express. With five minutes to go I quickly approached two Congolese percussionists and, in broken French, asked if they could join me.

Above the noise of Carl Barât’s Afro-tinged “Don’t Look Back into the Sun” on stage, I sang the melody to them as they worked out their parts. With the very talented Seye on bass, who was fortunately already familiar with my song, we took to the stage. This is it, I thought, the moment I have been anticipating all day, nervously knocking back beers on the train from London.

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FROM METRO (8/9/2012): Damon Albarn’s Africa Express goes full steam ahead with musical tour


There’s no silent coach on the Africa Express – and these passengers know how to make sweet music.


By Arwa Haider – 8th September, 2012

Africa Express Musicians get ready to board Africa Express (Picture: Simon Phipps)

‘People get ready, there’s a train coming…’ It’s midday at Jumbo Records in Leeds, and an Africa Express pop-up in-store gig has drawn a rapt crowd. The Magic Numbers’ Romeo Stodart leads a singalong through a classic 1960s cover, Malian chanteuse Rokia Traore brings gloriously soulful West African roots and Ghanaian rapper Manifest adds freestyle wordplay – all backed with acoustic kora and ngoni strings. The set is just part of the most ambitious excursion yet from Africa Express: the cross-continental music exchange sparked by Damon Albarn in 2006. Since then, Africa Express has hosted multi-genre, multi-generationa gigs around the world. This week, it charters its own railroad tour of Britain: what Manifest calls ‘a train of thought’.

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FROM MOBO BLOG: In depth: Africa Express 2012 – London Finale




The Africa Express project was created in 2005 by Damon Albarn, Stephen Budd and Ian Birell to widen the appreciation of African culture through music and exemplify its rich heritage. Since 2005 the music initiative has been involved in a number of events across Europe and the African continent. From Brixton Jamm in 2006 to trips to Mali in 2006, DRC in 2007 and Nigeria in 2008; the project has endeavoured to promote artistic collaboration between African and western musicians and facilitate an enriching cultural exchange. Read More >>>

BBC Africa Express Train tour report


KIWTK: View of Africa Express, London, from the audience


FROM THIS IS FAKE DIY: Review – Africa Express, Granary Sq, London



The warmth and camaraderie between all the performers is what makes this so extraordinary.

8th September 2012, Granary Square, London / By Danny Wright

africa express london
All photos © John Sturrock
For the last week a train has been carrying 80 African and western musicians around the UK. The Africa Express has stopped at Middlesbrough, Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff and Bristol with acts playing a flurry of impromptu gigs and entertainingly off-kilter and colourful shows. Now it’s time for the thrilling finale in London’s Granary Square.

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