Interview

Africa Express' New Album 'EGOLI' Is a Journey Into the Sounds of South Africa

We speak to Moonchild Sanelly, Muzi and Mr Jukes about their contributions to the new album.

Africa Express is back with the entrancing new album, EGOLI.

Throughout its 18 tracks the music collective, which was co-founded by Damon Albarn, concentrates on the sounds of South Africa. The entirety of the new record was recorded in just a week of collaborations in Johannesburg.

EGOLI includes buzzing South African names like Moonchild Sanelly, Sho Madjozi, BCUC, BLK JKS, FAKA, Mahotella Queens, Muzi, Morena Leraba, Nonku Phiri, Radio 123, and Sibot. It also features a posthumous track with DJ Spoko.

Other notable acts heard across the record are Damon Albarn, Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Gruff Rhys, Ghetts, Blue May, Mr Jukes, Georgia, Poté and many more.

Standout tracks include the album's lead single "Johannesburg"—a breezy and addictive production that blends Gruff Rhys' soothing vocals with hip-hop beat work and additional delivery from Morena Leraba, Radio 123 and Sibot.

OkayAfrica spoke with Moonchild Sanelly, Muzi and Mr Jukes about their contributions to EGOLI below.



What was it like recording with Africa Express in Johannesburg?

Moonchild Sanelly: Johannesburg is the melting pot of everything; it is the city where everyone comes to find work to succeed in music. It also has different genres, and we're not just specific to one area because we are people from so many different areas, it made it such a perfect choice because it wasn't limited.

Mr Jukes: As always with Africa Express it was an incredibly inspiring experience. To gather such a number of diverse musicians, make them feel comfortable and give them the space and time to create a whole album is so impressive. There was music in every direction at every hour of the day, a mix of styles and personalities which created something totally unique.

Muzi: It was really cool... very open space and, creatively, we could do and try so many different things. Trying different sounds happens to be my world so I really enjoyed it.

What the collaboration process was like in the studio. How did the songs take shape?

Moonchild: This project is like nothing I've ever done before, we were like kids in a candy store, where you could literally just go into any hut and make music with anyone and any genre. It was a very expressive space, showing off all your sides and trying new things if you've never tried them before… it was just amazing.

Mr Jukes: I stumbled into the room where Nonku Phiri was singing and was totally mesmerised. I joined in on a keyboard, we had an instant connection. We later decided to spend a whole day working on a new song together. It all happened so quickly and instinctively and I think we made something really special.

Muzi: The creative process was pretty free-flowing. I'd make a beat then go see if anyone was interested in recording vocals.


What South African genres or styles are showcased throughout EGOLI?

Muzi: I love traditional South African music so you bet I had to put in my mbhaqanga, maskandi and bubblegum pop influences in there somehow. Those were the genres I focused on. I also contributed on a gqom song [laughs]. It was fun.

Moonchild: EGOLI is energy filled, we've always been known to be a dancing country so genres like Gqom and Amapiano are the ones that are popping right now and these are songs that are originally from South Africa.

Mr Jukes: I had never heard Gqom before but during that week it was everywhere. The fierce drum fills would echo constantly throughout the lodge. I fell in love with it and I think the songs by Dominowe and Infamous Boiz were the highlights of the gig we played on the last night.

What's your favorite track on the album aside from your own?

Moonchild Sanelly: My favorite one on the album is "Bittersweet Escape," the Nonku Phiri and Mr Jukes one, it's so awesome.

Muzi: "City in Lights." I love it so much!! Those chords are out of this world.

Mr Jukes: "City in Lights" by Georgia because it has an energy which sums up our time in Johannesburg.

EGOLI is available everywhere now.



popular

Listen to Zoocci Coke Dope and Ami Faku’s New Single ‘Regrets’

Zoocci Coke Dope and Ami Faku connect on new single 'Regrets.'

As announced last week, "Regrets" arrived today. The idea of a collaboration between South African hip-hop artist Zoocci Coke Dope and Afro soul singer Ami Faku was intriguing because no one could predict what it would sound like.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Rodger Bosch/Getty Images

South African Designer Athi Patra Ruga is Collaborating with Dior

The designer has produced two bags for the international fashion label's Lady Art Project.

Athi Patra Ruga is an Umtata-born South African visual artist who explores sexuality, HIV/AIDS, queerness and African culture in fashion, performance and contemporary art. Recently, he joined fellow designers Rina Banerjee, Maria Nepomuceno, Mickalene Thomas, Jia Lee and Eduardo Terrazas in designing bags for the fourth installment of Dior's Lady Art Project which sees designers from all over the world re-imagining the fashion label's iconic Lady Dior bag. This year's group made use of techniques including embroidery, patchwork, quilting and printing, which experts have suggested may symbolize the resurgence of textile art in couture.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Cellou Binani/Getty Images

Several People Have Been Killed During Protests in Guinea

Guineans are protesting against changes to the constitution which will allow President Alpha Conde to run for a third term.

At least five people have died during protests in Guinea's Conakry and Mamou after police opened fire on them, according to Aljazeera. The protests come just after President Alpha Conde instructed his government to look into drafting a new constitution that will allow him to remain in power past the permissible two terms. Conde's second five-year term will come to an end next year but as is the unfortunate case with many African leaders, the 81-year-old is intent on running for office yet again.

Keep reading... Show less
popular
Photo by Hamish Brown

In Conversation: Lemn Sissay On His New Book About Re-claiming the Ethiopian Heritage Stolen From Him by England’s Foster Care System

In 'My Name Is Why,' the 2019 PEN Pinter award winner passionately advocates for children in the institutional care system, and in turn tells a unique story of identity and the power in discovering one's heritage.

It took the author Lemn Sissay almost two decades to learn his real name. As an Ethiopian child growing up in England's care system, his cultural identity was systematically stripped from him at an early age. "For the first 18 years of my life I thought that my name was Norman," Sissay tells OkayAfrica. "I didn't meet a person of color until I was 10 years of age. I didn't know a person of color until I was 16. I didn't know I was Ethiopian until I was 16 years of age. They stole the memory of me from me. That is a land grab, you know? That is post-colonial, hallucinatory madness."

Sissay was not alone in this experience. As he notes in his powerful new memoir My Name Is Why, during the 1960s, tens of thousands of children in the UK were taken from their parents under dubious circumstances and put up for adoption. Sometimes, these placements were a matter of need, but other times, as was the case with Sissay, it was a result of the system preying on vulnerable parents. His case records, which he obtained in 2015 after a hardfought 30 year campaign, show that his mother was a victim of child "harvesting," in which young, single women were often forced into giving their children up for adoption before being sent back to their native countries. She tried to regain custody of young Sissay, but was unsuccessful.

Whether they end up in the foster system out of need or by mistake, Sissay says that most institutionalized children face the same fate of abuse under an inadequate and mismanaged system that fails to recognize their full humanity. For black children who are sent to white homes, it often means detachment from a culturally-sensitive environment. "There are too many brilliant people that I know who have been adopted by white parents for me to say that it just doesn't work," says Sissay. "But the problem is the amount of children that it doesn't work for."

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

news.

popular.