On a grander scale this Tuesday night was another evening of artists jamming and collaborating, this time under Damon Albarn's supervising eye as he brought his Africa Express thing to Glasgow for the first time. Africa Express has being rumbling on for 6 years now under Damon Albarn's beady eye, but with funding as part of the cultural Olympiad this year Africa Express now literally has a train taking them between towns on a short UK tour which will end in London in a few days time. The sell-out show last night in Glasgow went on for the best part of 4 hours over 2 stages in The Arches tunnels beneath Central Station and with DJs taking the stage playing on for another couple of hours afterwards apparently (I was in bed by then).
|Damon Albarn with Afel Bocoumb|
|Bassekou Kouyate and Fatoumata Diawara|
spontanaiety of the various MC's such as whilst singing Dead Prez's "It's Bigger Than Hip Hop", and earlier Baltimore's Rye Rye were more impressive than any recorded rap/ hip hop stuff which never really grabs me and Baaba Maal, who I've never really listened too until now, oozed charisma when he was briefly on stage.
The problem at times wasn't the quality of the music on show, but the quantity. Some people I'd been looking forward to seeing were off again before you knew it. With no ringmaster or supervising stage presence to introduce people you had to try to guess who they were at times, and with 80 musicians advertised it was beyond me who I was watching at points in the show despite doing a bit of homework before going. "Was that big guy with the beard playing guitar at the back of the stage Romeo Stodart from the Magic Numbers?", "Which one is Jack Steadman?", "Rokia Traore, she's the one with the shaved head who sang on the Gorillaz song and Mim Sulemain the one with crazy hair, yes?" Damon flitted distractedly on and off stage, avoiding being the star turn and trying to let the music tell its own story. In a lot of ways having so many performers dilutes the individual talents and risks being less than the sum of its seperate parts. Being so spoilt for choice I looked at the line-ups for the various venues and grumbled about the ones I wouldn't see who weren't coming to Glasgow (eg Gruff Rhys is always an entertaining performer and Nneka I've bought tickets for before at King Tuts and never seen as she cancelled, you lucky Cardiff and Bristol people). One highlight that I need to try to track down to hear more of was Jupiter and Okwess International mixing African drums with Hammond organ sounds, making a funk-filled noise that wasn't upstaged when they were joined on stage by 3 bagpipers "Mull of Kintyre" style. Its not often that a Scottish crowd gives it a nonchalant "oh yeah, that'll be bagpipes" but in a night when everything but the kitchen sink was being thrown at the audience they just got the same warm applause everyone else was given.
|Jupiter & Okwess International at The Arches, Glasgow|
(And they're still filming Fast and Furious on the Glasgow streets at night down here.)