Africa Express Presents: Maison Des Jeunes
Damon Albarn hasn’t hit it out of the park with every project he’s been involved in since Blur but it’s pretty close – the strike-rate is impressive and here, with Maison Des Jeunes Albarn overseas/spearheads an album that was put together after a week-long trip to Mali where Albarn’s Africa Express project linked superstar producers (Brian Eno, Nick Zinner, Two Inch Punch, David Maclean of Django Django, Albarn…) with African musicians.
There’s a cultural weight to this, obviously – but the music is infectious from the opening Fantainfalla Toyi Bolo by Adama Koita (produced by Two Inch Punch) through to the closing Lategue by Tiemoko Sogodogo (produced by Eno). In this Western rock meets African music mash-up it’s sometimes hard to know exactly where the guitars have come from Nick Zinner and Remi Kabaka mingle desert blues and country licks on Songhoy Blues’ Soubour and Albarn and Two Inch Punch create a hypnotic, trippy dubplate for Ghostpoet’s flow as he and Doucoura trade for Season Change.
The gentle Dougoude Saffaro by Bijou shows some of Albarn’s production skills, a soft bed of percussion for this ballad to be draped across. Elsewhere the charge of Africa is loud and proud – as talking drums dictate on Lil Silva’s self-produced Bouramsy.
Every track its own standout this is a fantastic compilation brimming with ideas, sometimes a fresh sonic approach peeks out (as on Talbi’s Rapou Kanou – an exciting piece of African rap) and other times it’s the idea of tradition that speaks so boldly (Gambari and Kankou Kouyate’s beautiful Yamore). Albarn hasn’t always got it right – but he’s doing a lot of good with music. And for music. And it would be impossible to complain about this album – his profile should see it getting some notice. The music is stunning, the idea so bold – and yet so simple. Music really is the universal language – see her for further proof.