Five albums in, and Africa Express – Damon Albarn’s cross-cultural collaboration engine – has pitched up in Johannesburg, known as Egoli in Xhosa. It could be the best iteration yet this speed-dating pop writer’s camp, in which a handful UK and US artists (Nick Zinner, a returnee, plus Super Furry Gruff Rhys and grime MC Ghetts, to name three) and a 20-stong cast local producers, musicians, singers and groove-bringers pull an album together in a week.
Thanks to South Africa’s vast natural resources dance music, both traditional and bleeding-edge, Egoli is a party album almost end to end, an update on Buraka Som Sistema’s Angolan-Portuguese rave dynamics and more like a Gorillaz record than anything you might normally file under “world music”. The frisky, blue-wigged Moonchild Sanelly locks horns with Infamous Boiz, innovators in South Africa’s gqom genre. Together they lead the charge for body-moving pop.
Of the few lower-key tracks, the incessantly lovely Absolutely Everything Is Pointing Towards the Light is sung alternately in Welsh and Xhosa by Rhys and Zolani Mahola.