Africa Express


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AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

"Egoli" is the Xhosa word for Johannesburg -- translated into English it means "city of gold" -- which is where the collective Africa Express recorded this album in a matter of weeks at the dawn of 2019. Like the five previous albums by Africa Express, Damon Albarn acts as a ringleader in the shadows, omnipresent and largely invisible as he conducts an ever-shifting lineup of South African musicians through lithe electro grooves and spacy pop. Everything on Egoli defies easy categorization. The music doesn't follow conventional paths, either by the standards of African or Western music, and it's a reflection of how every musician involved in Africa Express is aiming at music that crosses cultures. The music is usually anchored in danceable rhythms that slyly evade both hip-hop and mbaqanga clich├ęs, but Egoli also slides into lovely folkie territory: witness the delicate duet between Zolani Mahola and Gruff Rhys on "Absolutely Everything Is Pointing Towards the Light." Generally, Egoli bends toward joyous exuberance, music that sustains itself through its spontaneity and its open heart. The immediacy makes Egoli an instantly inviting listen but it's the camaraderie that makes it a nourishing one.

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