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The French military intervened in Mali last year to overturn an Islamist uprising. Now comes a group of western musicians under the aegis of Africa Express, established by Blur’s Damon Albarn in 2006. With non-religious music having been banned by the Islamist rebels in the areas they controlled, the intention is to show solidarity with Malian musicians.

But it’s a delicate undertaking, considering the complexities surrounding Mali’s fall from model of African governance to failed state. The danger of creating bland musical nostrums is acute; that it’s avoided is testament to Maison des Jeunes’ collaborative success. London bass culture meets Malian traditional music on “Fantainfalla Toyi Bolo”, sung by Adama Koita and produced by Two Inch Punch. Drum band Doucoura and UK rapper Ghostpoet are hypnotic on “Season Change” (co-produced by Albarn). As the album progresses, the westerners’ imprint fades into the background and the Malian musicians come to fore: an apt shift in tone.

Africa Express Presents

Maison des Jeunes

(Transgressive)

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