FORGET the opinion dividing the opening event of Liverpool 08. Here it is at last - a true celebration of Liverpool’s diverse musical heritage, writes Ben Patey.
First done as an experiment at Glastonbury to rebel against the lack of African acts invited to perform at Live 8, Africa Express promoted artistic collaboration between artists from different cultures, continents and genres. And now the Africa Exprez show coming Liverpool. Nowhere else - just Liverpool.
Undoubtedly, Liverpool’s 08 standing will have played a part when Damon Albarn and his co-organiser Ian Ashbridge chose the location for the gig. However, Africa Exprez has no ties with the Culture Company. It was chosen for more than its 08 label – probably the biggest compliment the city could receive.
Liverpool, of course, has long associations with Africa going back to the years of transatlantic slavery. Those dark days are superbly catalogued in the International Slavery Museum down at the docks. In recent years the outstanding (and free) Africa Oye Music Festival has proved a massive success in promoting African music in Liverpool. Now with Africa Exprez rolling into town, Liverpool’s diverse communities and musical roots are being celebrated further still.
Ashbridge told Confidential, “Africa Exprez is fundamentally all about putting African and Western musicians on the same stage. There are over 25 acts coming. At Glastonbury it was one long collaboration. I think this will be much the same”.
Damon Albarn will be there. Hard-Fi and Reverend and the Makers have been strongly rumoured. Ashbridge says to “expect surprises, while Albarn has already confirmed his attendance: “Well, I know I'll be there.. We've had assurances from various parties. Apparently Baaba Maal and Franz Ferdinand are doing something. It'll be fine.”
Names involved at the Glastonbury jam included Fatboy Slim, Martha Wainwright, Scratch from The Roots and Jamie T. Add too, an abundance of fine African musicians who appeared as well, and you start to get an idea of the level of talent we can expect to see at the Liverpool event. They may not all be household names but you can guarantee they’ll be of at least equal flair.
Although Damon Albarn got the ball rolling after several inspirational trips to Africa, it’s by no means a ‘Damon Albarn and The Africa Exprez’ project. The message is one of unity and musical celebration – individuals and egos need not apply.
And you can forget about going to the Carling Academy or The Echo Arena. Try the Olympia. Sandwiched between two large housing estates in the Everton locale, the Olympia is a fitting place to host the occasion. A hundred years ago, it was a circus venue. In recent times, it’s staged everything from cage fighting to the Cheeky Girls. Where better to put on a feast of world music?
We’re certainly going to be there. We’ve also got a pair of tickets to give away. Fill in your details below. We’ve also the link to the site where you can buy tickets here.
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