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Founded in 2005 by Blur frontman Damon Albarn and British journalist Ian Birrell, Africa Express is a non-profit organization and world music group featuring a revolving door of performers from African, Western, and Middle Eastern countries. The group's timely formation was influenced by the lack of African musicians playing the Live 8 charity concerts in July 2005. Appropriately, Africa Express headed to the Saharan Desert to make its debut at the Festival au Désert in 2006, with artists like Fatboy Slim and Martha Wainwright appearing in the group's initial lineup. One year later, Africa Express performed a five-hour set at the Glastonbury Festival in Somerset, England, this time joined by K'naan, Billy Bragg, Baaba Maal, and other guests. Africa Express Presents… marked the band's debut album in 2009, followed by releases like 2013's Maison des Jeunes, 2014's Terry Riley in C Mali (an African reworking of Terry Riley's minimalist classic, In C, from 1964), and 2016's The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians. With Damon Albarn serving as the group's ringleader, African Express continued exploring a cross-cultural mix of African music and western influences on 2019's Egoli, a critically-adored album featuring the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner, grime rapper Ghetts, Super Furry Animals' Gruff Rhys, Moonchild Sanelly, and the South African vocal group Mahotella Queens.
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