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This is how Damon Albarn chose the national talent who played for Africa Express during his visit to Mexico

What you need to know:

The Bahidorá programmer told us about the national artists who collaborated at the festival with Damon Albarn and Africa Express.

The year 2024 is just beginning and we already have a few nominees for the best show of the year. And without exaggeration, What we experienced with Africa Express, Damon Albarn and all the talent that accompanied them during their presentation at the Bahidorá Festival was something from another planeta musical spectacle that we had never experienced before.

Almost three months after his show with Blur at Corona Capital 2023, the British musician returned to our country. However, On this occasion he didn’t come with his well-known projects, but surprised us all by coming back with them this group that has formed over a long period of time to promote musicians from Africa and other parts of the world. And yes, of course we had the hype at its peak.

Check out the videos of Luisa Almaguer, Camilo Lara, Eme Malafe and La Bruja de Texcoco playing with Damon Albarn and Africa Express
Damon Albarn arrived in Mexico for the first time with Africa Express/Photo: Raúl Fernández

Africa Express gave us a magical and unique experience in Bahidorá

Finally, after a long wait, On February 17, we had the opportunity to witness the debut of Africa Express in our country, on the second day of Bahidorá 2024 activities. and without fear of mistakes, It was one of the most incredible and magical things we’ve seen in a long time.

For five hours we watched countless great musicians and artists from all over the world parade, such as: Damon Albarn, Nick Zinner, Joan as a policewoman, Seye Adelekan, Femi Koleoso (In addition to their projects, the latter also play with Gorillaz), Bonobo, Django Django, Fatoumata Diawara, Moonchild Sanelly and many more who shared their talent and love of music on the Las Estacas stage.

Damon Albarn and Seye Adelekan play with Africa Express in Bahidorá 2024 / Photo: Raúl Fernández

Mexican talent was present at this special presentation

However, What’s special about this Africa Express presentation is that it featured highly-regarded local talent.. Out of Luisa Almaguer (who sang a moving version of “On Melancholy Hill” with Damon), Camilo Lara (who performed a Spanglish cover of The Smiths’ “Panic” with Albarn), The Pream, Eme Malafe (who we spoke to before the show), Mare Warning, The Witch of Texcoco and They are pear crushersput together a simply spectacular dumbbell.

They were accurate the features specially compiled for this occasion and the spontaneity of working hand in hand, even though many had already met a few days before The spirit of everyone who came together and the joy of sharing the music made this show unique. and unrepeatable.

To be honest, it will be very difficult to forget and process the Africa Express experience in Bahidorá 2024. But there are also many doubts left, In particular, we are very excited to hear how Damon Albarn and the other members of the collective chose the Mexican artists that would accompany them in this show.

That’s why we decided to look for the festival and that’s how we arrived Lucía Anaya, Bahidorá’s music programmer, told us exactly the process of selecting the local talents that would participate in this presentation, what criteria they used and what it was like to bring all these talents together in one place. Read what he told us about it below.

It took Bahidorá more than a year to bring Africa Express to Mexico

Definitely, The biggest attraction of the 2024 Bahidorá edition for many was that they saw the Africa Express for the first time in our countryS. No wonder, because although Damon Albarn has visited us several times with Blur, Gorillaz and even as a soloist, he finally decided to bring this project to Mexico.

But even if you don’t believe it, the chance that Albarn and the main members of the collective agreed to take part in the festival did not arise from one moment to the next. Actually, They had been in discussions for a long time to be able to complete this appointment in the lands of the Aztecseven a representative previously visited Las Estacas to learn about the concept and atmosphere of the place.

“Well, apparently a partner from Bahidorá, Toledo, had been in contact with them for several years, but that was not possible. Last year Lauren (Roth de Wolf) came.), who is the manager of the project, to meet Bahidorá and see what it was about and so on. And well, that’s where the conversation got a little more concrete, didn’t it? It convinced him and he came back with very good feedback. And that’s where the negotiations started a year ago, because the fact that they were already set for 2024. And that’s when it started.”

Los Pream and La Bruja de Texcoco play with Africa Express at Bahidorá 2024/Photo via Facebook by Los Pream

And how did Damon Albarn and the other members choose the acts for the show?

If we are clear about something, this is it The Mexican talent who took part in Bahidorá 2024 with Africa Express has completely made it. And fundamentally They had a wide variety of artists covering many genres of music and who contributed their grain of sand to this absolutely epic show.

But, Who chose you and why were you considered for this five-hour concert? Well, that’s what the festival programmer told us They themselves sent him a huge list of names and in the end both Damon Albarn and the collective’s coordinators decided who they wanted to work with.

“Yes, well, they sent the order, we made a… let’s say, selection with suggestions from everyone, from the Bahidorá team, their team and even from projects that had already taken part in Africa Express and the already knew what it was like (the pace of work) and the relationship. Of course, the idea was also to include artists from Mexico and Latin America.”

“And now, some of the names on a suggestion list were fulfilled, but others were. We wrote down everything from Natalia Lafourcade to the Witch of Texcoco, Mexican rock characters and even, I don’t know, pop characters, right? There were many options and they began to listen to each other. They acted as a filter, let’s say the team consisting of Damon, Ian (Birrell).)Lauren and other musicians from Africa Express have filtered their selection.”

“For example, you obviously needed a concert band, right? Something that is not very common in the sound of Africa. Well, there are brass bands elsewhere too, but I think that’s why the role of Los Pream had an important influence on the whole show and the whole musical process. And in the end they were chosen because an ensemble like theirs was urgently needed for the project.”

“It was about getting characters, right? One of those iconic ones. I think Paul McCartney was on an Africa Express show once. There was an attempt here, a failure so to speak, to have this mega-great character, but I think in the end we had, well, all these characters that are… already iconic, like within a scene in Mexico and Latin America like Tayhana, like Mare. Warning, no?”

“I also think that new talents like Luis Almaguer came to the fore. The pream carried the entire Africa Express show for me and I think they all complemented each other very well and in the end, well, Damon Albarn’s presence and direction also shone, well, didn’t he? I mean, I think they all shined equally well, there was no difference in the show in that respect.”

“We actually didn’t choose anyone, we just sent out a huge list and they made a shortlist with these characters. And I think they basically relied a lot on the diversity of artists that apply to certain communities. Like La Bruja de Texcoco, which represents queer folklore (…) they complemented the rap with Mare Warning, which brings a wave of rap with activism, Luisa Almaguer’s voice caught Damon’s attention from the start. In fact, she had her three acts ready the first day she came to rehearsals.”

“I think they were based on real, authentic talent. Camilo (Lara) also appeared, who is an important figure in the production in Mexico and had some connection to Damon in the past, they already knew each other. Son Rompe Pera was also something natural, because in addition to the fact that they played at the festival, they also fit together because they brought African marimbas. “You have chosen a very ambitious and authentic team.”

Damon Albarn and Luisa Almaguer sing together in Bahidorá/Photo: Damon Albarn Unofficial

The complexity of coordinating a project as large and ambitious as Africa Express

Naturally Managing a super cool project like the one Bahidorá organizers put together with Africa Express wasn’t easy.as they had to adjust the rooms and coordinate everything so that the artists and musicians arrived on time to start preparing for the show.

But despite the stress and obstacles they had to face to make the concert happen, Lucía Anaya realized that since Damon Albarn and Co. got together in the improvised studios, she became aware of the chemistry and musical complicity that is rarely felt.

“Basically everything was put together in two, two and a half days. Two studies were conducted in Las Estacas on Thursday. The truth is that there is the production and the Bahidorá team, The truth is, it was excellent. The logistics, all of that, complemented the fact that they had, well, managed to arrive at a rehearsal space, which was the Las Estacas Spa, super organized. This room was converted into a studio, the backline was rented and another studio was set up in the hotel. So there were two places where they started congregating.”

And certain singles were also selected. There it was like a job between me and Africa Express, which was: “Let’s see, well, La Bruja can play this song with Los Pream.” They (the collective) really liked one of Luisa’s songs “Make us like this”, they wanted to do it with her. I mean, as it was, yes, it was a musical collaboration, well, completely natural. There was never a ‘no, no’, there was never a ‘this yes, this no’.”

“I mean, they also incorporated the songs of Mexican talent very well, right? I think it was very well put together that they managed to put on a five-hour show.”

Everyone who took part in Bahidorá 2024 with Africa Express formed a good musical duo / Photo via Facebook: Damon Albarn Unoficial

Of course we didn’t miss the opportunity to ask for further details the album that Africa Express recorded in Mexico with national and international talent (Here we tell you what is known so far). Although they haven’t told us anything about it, we understand it The collaboration between Damon Albarn and all the talents who took part in Bahidorá will forever be remembered.

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