It's about that time that I continue talking about Damon Albarn. He's always up to something.
It's no secret that Damon Albarn is an explorer, a voyager of new sounds. Digging deep into the roots and finding some of the most inspiring beings on the planet, Albarn has spent the last two decades traveling around the world and unearthing new genres and styles. Of these styles, perhaps quietly (and sometimes more vocally) ingrained in his Gorillaz influences, is music stemming from Northern Africa.
On two occasions (at least), Albarn has paid visits to the country of Mali where he has gone on to release the albums Mali Music as well as Maison des Jeunes.
Recorded more than decade apart, Mali Music is a 2002 album where Albarn worked directly with legends Toumani Diabete and Afel Bocoum, as well as numerous other artists coming and going. It's mainly acoustic, calming, relaxing, and inviting as hell.
Eleven years later and Albarn spearheaded the album Maison Des Jeunes which featured numerous African musicians under his Africa Express project. This effort included the Democratic Republic of Congo album Kinshasa One Two. For this album, it was much more collaborative than Mali Music, with artists Brian Eno, Nick Zinner, and numerous others visiting Mali for a week in October of 2013, collaborating with artists like Tiemoko Sogodogo and Bijou. Albarn produces about a third of these songs, including Bijou's “Dougoude Sarrafo”, which might be the best on the project.
If you need more between Albarn and Mali, be sure to check out “Sabali”, a song he produced by blind Malian spouses Amadou & Miriam. Damian Marley and Nas went on to sample it for their song “Patience”. The more you know.