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Thursday, 17 April 2014

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It’s lovely to be in Cumbria says pop star Damon

The train arriving at platform four brought the sounds of Africa to Carlisle – along with Blur superstar Damon Albarn and a string of fellow musicians.

Albarn, famous for hits including Parklife, Song 2 and Girls and Boys, jumped from the 2.16pm arrival at the city’s railway station to declare: “It’s lovely to be in Carlisle.”

Along with him on the Africa Express were musicians including Romeo Stodart of The Magic Numbers, Afrikan Boy and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

Hundreds of people had gathered to watch the performance by the musicians and Albarn, also of The Gorillaz.

Office workers took a late lunch, parents brought children and music fans of all ages crammed into the station, capturing the sights and sounds on mobile phones and cameras.

Albarn, fresh from headlining an Olympics gig with Blur in Hyde Park, London, told the News & Star: “It’s an amazing mix of people, 80 musicians have got off that train and we’re starting to get a real synergy going and there’s some amazing music about. It’s a lot of fun.”

Africa Express brings together musicians from different cultures, genres and generations. It aims to break boundaries and offer a new perspective on Africa and its music.

It started in 2006, when Albarn took DJ Fatboy Slim and singers Martha Wainwright and Jamie T to Mali to work with African artists including Toumani Diabate and Salif Keita.

The ensemble performed at Glastonbury Festival in 2007.

Each gig they play is said to be a series of “on-the-spot” collaborations and the line-up often changes.

Mali superstar Baaba Maal, one of the first African stars to join Albarn’s project five years ago, was thrilled at the Carlisle reception. He said: “I loved the crowd. I heard that maybe most of the people here might not know a lot about African music and I’m pleased they came to see us. It is not easy to put everyone together and have no rehearsal, but it is the spirit of it and every time we are getting better and better.”

After a four hour-long gig in Glasgow on Tuesday, the performance on the station platform was amazingly energetic and Baaba joked: “We have the stamina, we are like Olympic athletes now!”

Romeo said: “It’s great to be here. We’re having the time of our lives on board. This is the fourth Africa Express train I’ve been on.”

“I was supposed to be getting a train to Penrith but I decided to stop and watch,” said Mark Cowin, amusician from Brough, near Appleby.

The 32-year-old, who is in two bands cancelled a practice he was due to attend. He said: “I knew it was happening but I hadn’t really thought much about it. It’s amazing that Damon Albarn is on the platform in Carlisle station.”

Mum and music teacher Deborah Bishop, of Wigton, brought her eight-week-old son George to watch.

She said: “It’s his first gig and he seems to be enjoying it. I’m a music teacher at Ullswater Community College in Penrith and I heard about the Africa Express. When my husband found out it was stopping in Carlisle we decided to come along.”

Deborah travelled by train to Carlisle with her friend Nicola Johnston and her two children Harry, three and Nina, one.

Nicola, also of Wigton, said: “It’s great to see something like this in Carlisle.”

Local rail freight operator Direct Rail Services donated the baggage carriage to the Africa Express.

Austen Skinner for DRS said: “We are delighted to be associated with such a fantastic event.”

Carlisle Music City helped set up the performance area.

Other musicians on board included Amadou, Temper Trap, Kubiam, Bassekou Kouyate, Jon McClure from Reverend and the Makers, Thandiswa, The Bots, Krar Collective, Jupiter, Reeps One and Rokia Traore.


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