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Video: Damon Albarn’s Africa Express perform in Leeds

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  • by Sophie Hazan
 

A collective of African and Western artists rolled into Leeds to perform a pop-up gig at a record store.

Malian ngoni player Toumani Diabate, Ghanaian rapper M.anifest, Malian songstress Rokia Traoré, Senegalese kora player Diabel Cissokho and Romeo Stodart, lead guitarist of The Magic Numbers, were at Jumbo Records in St John’s Shopping Centre.

Together they jammed for a modest but appreciative crowd as part of Africa Express – a touring project co-founded by former Blur and Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn.

In total around 80 artists are taking part in the initiative that brings together some contrasting sounds for a host of scheduled gigs in England, Scotland and Wales.

They are travelling aboard a 1970s British Rail diesel train that has been transformed into a locomotive live lounge so the musicians can practice and create on the go. They will also stop off for impromptu performances at factories, schools and station along the way.

Word soon spread that some of the artists were stopping in Leeds ahead of a scheduled concert in Middlesbrough last night.

Romeo told the crowd yesterday: “Thank you so much for hearing us. I am not really sure what’s going to happen but thank you for taking the risk.

“What’s amazing about this is it’s pure improvisation. You’re hearing it for the first time, but so are we.”

Together they played Koulendian, The Magic Numbers’ Love’s A Game mixed with Curtis Mayfield’s People Get Ready, and Touramakhan.

Nicola Hambridge, 40, stopped by for the session after hearing about it on Twitter.

She said: “I have travelled a little in Uganda and I have never heard of this stuff happening before - a collaboration of musicians from neighbouring African countries is fantastic.”

Toby Roberts, 32, who cycled in from Stourton for the show, said: “I knew they were playing in Stoke and kept an eye online to see if they might stop in Leeds, and they did.”

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