Blur frontman Damon Albarn played a surprise gig in Cardiff this morning as part of his multicultural music project Africa Express.
The Africa Express features Western and African musicians who have been playing a series of pop-up and scheduled gigs around the UK, with a finale performance at the Brabican this Saturday as part of the London 2012 Festival.
The Express rolled into Cardiff yesterday, with a huge show at Cardiff University Student’s Union last night, and a small pop-up gig in Spillers record store featuring former Libertines singer Carl Barat.
But a small number of community groups got to see an intimate performance from Albarn himself at Community Music Wales this morning, when the man behind Gorillaz joined three African musicians scheduled to perform at the charity’s offices in Fairwater.
Groups that Community Music Wales works with – including Vision 21 and Moorland Primary School – had been invited to this morning’s event, and prepared to welcome the African musicians with a drumming and percussion session.
But when the three musicians arrived, they were joined by Albarn, who played music for their native Mali with them in a close-up gig.
Albarn showed the crowd the traditional instruments played by the Mali musicians, invited members of the audience up to try them out and played two songs with the band. See Albarn performing in our video below.
Hannah Jenkins, director of Community Music Wales, said: “African drumming is one of our most popular workshops, so we wanted to be involved with Africa Express because it’s a masterclass in that type of music.
“We had been really excited about whoever was coming because all the artists are absolutely amazing, but Africa Express is Damon’s concept, so having him here was something we did not expect. It was the cherry on the top of what was already a great workshop.
“It was great for all the groups that we work with to see such skilled musicians – it was just amazing. We are a community organisation, and Africa Express is about participation and getting people to play music together, and they involved everyone. It made the workshop.”
Listen to Africa Express artists Afel Bocoum, Kelly Mamadou and Pedro Sankaré performing in our Audioboo recording below.