Africa Express have formed a new collective to write, record and produce new album, Egoli, which is out on the 12th July. A varied and upbeat album with a clear African influence, there is a wealth of genre diversity within this eight-track compilation.
Africa Express travelled to South Africa in January last year to complete this LP in a mere seven days, an amazingly fresh and diverse celebration of collaboration and music-making. Egoli has a contemporary sound, straight out of Johannesburg, that makes it near impossible to avoid any body movement.
Featured artists include Damon Albarn, Blue May, Gruff Rhys, Georgia, Ghetts, Mr Jukes, Nick Zinner, Remi Kabaka, Otim Alpha and Poté as well as South African talent such as BCUC, Blk Jks, Dominowe, Faka, Infamous Boiz, DJ Spoko, Mahotella Queens, Moonchild Sanelly, Muzi, Morena Leraba, Nonku Phiri, Radio 123, Sibot, Sho Madjozi, Zola 7, Zolani Mahola (Freshly Ground) and Maskandi guitar legend Phuzekhemisi. It is hardly surprising there is such a variety of sounds, when you think of all that these artists and their influences would bring to the table.
Considered a platform and collective, I’d like to think that the process is listening as well as it is creating and that the artists get an equal say and input into the creation of the music that is offered by this vibrant lot. The fusion of cultures with Africa Express offers music on an international level that revitalises the music scene, which in itself sparks magic within.
The opener track on this album is about as traditional as we hear, and is indeed a Welcome. City In Lights incorporates more synth and the vocals of Georgia, already mixing in the Western flavours. Bittersweet Escape, a multi-layered track that builds feels alive, thanks to the sassy vocals of Nonku Phiri. Johannesburg featuring Gruff Rhys, Morena Leraba, Radio 123, Sibo has a wonderfully multicultural vibe to it, with those South African and Welsh sounds, flagrant and embedded. Become The Tiger feels loose and detached, with a focus on the aesthetic rather than content of the track, and for that reason is one of the more disappointing tracks, and is in fact reminiscent of that Fedde Le Grand track, successful in the club scene. Mama is a wonderful percussion-heavy track, incorporating the sounds we expect from Africa Express, a colourful track which will see many hit a dancefloor.
Taranau is a beautiful combination of guitar, percussion and vocals, notably Gruff on backing vocals, which is interesting, the well-known name working in this refreshingly collaborative manner. Track seventeen, with Damon Albarn’s vocal and the pulsating synth, is another dance track, and a cultural journey, transformative in sound, as we are introduced to dialects and languages. I Can’t Move has elements of lounge and chill-out Ibiza to it, as well as South Africa and Johannesburg. The final track, See The World, is fitting, concluding the approach with this compiled record. With Damon’s as well as Gruff’s and the Mahotella Queens’, the album is lamented with the talent of the long-standing, Welsh and the South African.
Egoli is out on 12th July, via Africa Express.