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Mumford & Sons Take Us Inside 'Johannesburg'

Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons on collaborating with Beatenberg, Baaba Maal and The Very Best on the group's new mini-album, 'Johannesburg'

Mumford & Sons had been wanting to play South Africa for a while. But they didn’t want to just go to South Africa, play a show or two and leave, as is the norm for big overseas acts. “We knew we had to go, but it’s just not on the way anywhere. It’s not like playing in Germany where you can just pop over to France” the band’s lead singer, Marcus Mumford, tells me over the phone. “We wanted to make it a bit more of a special kind of tour.”


That desire to make it a whole thing resulted in a six-show South African tour and the “mini-album,” Johannesburg, a five-song love letter of sorts to the group’s travels from Cape Town to Joburg. Or rather, the musicians they met along the way.

The project was recorded in February at Joburg’s South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) headquarters, where the group spent two days and nights in the studio with a who’s-who of artists on the continent assembled by Swedish producer Johan Hugo of The Very Best, whom the band first met in 2010 on their Laneway Festival tour in Australia.

“I don’t think it’s within a certain genre” Mumford tells me of the project. Johannesburg is a collaboration in the truest sense. The sum of its parts being Cape Town indie-pop band Beatenberg, Senegalese legend Baaba Maal and The Very Best’s Hugo and his other half, Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya. And of course the four guys from Mumford.

“It really is a collaboration with different artists” says Mumford.

Though the group has no plans to return to South Africa as of now, they’re excited about when they do. “For us it’s become kind of an iconic trip that we did” concludes the Mumford frontman. “Next time we’ll have to compete with how fun this first one was.”

Mumford & Sons with Beatenberg and The Very Best. Photo: David East. Source: Facebook

Below, Marcus Mumford takes us inside the five tracks on Johannesburg:

There Will Be Time

"Well we wrote that almost two years ago now. With Baaba in the studio in London. We did one day together. Just for run, really. Johan from The Very Best had introduced us. And we did one day in the studio together. And we wrote that song. That was the song that really sent us to South Africa. We wrote that, and we were like 'we should do a whole project around, rather than release it as a one-off.'"

Wona

“'Wona' came about from us getting to Cape Town, picking up some instruments together. And then starting to write. And Matt [from Beatenberg] came over to my hotel, and we wrote some lyrics and some chords together, some ideas we both had. And then we took it to the lads in Joburg and we played it for them, and it became a thing."

Fool You've Landed

"We had a demo called 'Fool You’ve Landed,' which didn’t make it onto our last record. It’s definitely very different from now from what 'Fool You’ve Landed' sounds like on this record. There was like a verse idea and a chorus idea that feature on this song, but then Esau from The Very Best really embraced the verse, and wrote it basically in the studio. And it became a whole different thing to what it was before."

Ngamila

"Ngamila means camel. It was a song that Johan played me a demo of the idea in London, and I sang something on it that we did together in Winston’s apartment in London, when Winston wasn’t even there actually. We then took it with us to Joburg and played it for the guys, and that became something we wanted to work on more. And then Baaba did some vocals on it. That was Esau’s baby, really. And I love that song actually."

Si Tu Veux

"'Si Tu Veux' is completely original from Joburg. We wrote that from start to finish in those two days. It was a very fun song to see being recorded, because it was a lot of candle light kind of vibes, and then Baaba sang this thing in the studio which just blew our minds with how special it was. And then we kind of crafted this cinematic kind of backing track thing. I think it might have been my favorite one, that one."

Johannesburg is out 17 June worldwide. Okayafrica is hosting the Gentleman of the Road: Johannesburg - a South African Experience pop-up exhibition now through 19 June at the Okay Space in Brooklyn, New York. 

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Artwork: Barthélémy Toguo Lockdown Selfportrait 10, 2020. Courtesy Galerie Lelong & Co

1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair Goes to Paris in 2021

The longstanding celebration of African art will be hosted by Parisian hot spot Christie's for the first time ever.

In admittedly unideal circumstances, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair will be touching French soil in 2021. The internationally celebrated art fair devoted to contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora will be hosted in Paris, France from January 20 - 23. With COVID-19 still having its way around the globe, finding new ways to connect is what it's all about and 1-54 is certainly taking the innovative steps to keep African art alive and well.
In partnership with Christie's, the in-person exhibits will take place at the auction house's city HQ at Avenue Matignon, while 20 international exhibitors will be featured online at Christies.com. And the fun doesn't stop there as the collaboration has brought in new ways to admire the talent from participating galleries from across Africa and Europe. The fair's multi-disciplinary program of talks, screenings, performances, workshops, and readings are set to excite and entice revelers.

Artwork: Delphine Desane Deep Sorrow, 2020. Courtesy Luce Gallery


The tech dependant program, curated by Le 18, a multi-disciplinary art space in Marrakech medina, will see events take place during the Parisian run fair, followed by more throughout February.
This year's 1-54 online will be accessible to global visitors virtually, following the success of the 2019's fair in New York City and London in 2020. In the wake of COVID-19 related regulations and public guidelines, 1-54 in collaboration with Christie's Paris is in compliance with all national regulations, strict sanitary measures, and security.

Artwork: Cristiano Mongovo Murmurantes Acrilico Sobre Tela 190x200cm 2019


1-54 founding director Touria El Glaoui commented, "Whilst we're sad not to be able to go ahead with the fourth edition of 1-54 Marrakech in February as hoped, we are incredibly excited to have the opportunity to be in Paris this January with our first-ever fair on French soil thanks to our dedicated partners Christie's. 1-54's vision has always been to promote vibrant and dynamic contemporary art from a diverse set of African perspectives and bring it to new audiences, and what better way of doing so than to launch an edition somewhere completely new. Thanks to the special Season of African Culture in France, 2021 is already set to be a great year for African art in the country so we are excited to be playing our part and look forward, all being well, to welcoming our French friends to Christie's and many more from around the world to our online fair in January."

Julien Pradels, General Director of Christie's France, said, "Christie's is delighted to announce our second collaboration with 1-54, the Contemporary African Art Fair, following a successful edition in London this October. Paris, with its strong links to the continent, is a perfect place for such a project and the additional context of the delayed Saison Africa 2020 makes this partnership all the more special. We hope this collaboration will prove a meaningful platform for the vibrant African art scene and we are confident that collectors will be as enthusiastic to see the works presented, as we are."


Artwork: Kwesi Botchway Metamorphose in July, 2020. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957


Here's a list of participating galleries to be on the lookout for:

Galleries

31 PROJECT (Paris, France)
50 Golborne (London, United Kingdom)
Dominique Fiat (Paris, France)
Galerie 127 (Marrakech, Morocco)
Galerie Anne de Villepoix (Paris, France)
Galerie Cécile Fakhoury (Abidjan, Côte d'Ivoire/ Dakar, Senegal)
Galerie Eric Dupont (Paris, France)
Galerie Lelong & Co. (Paris, France / New York, USA)
Galerie Nathalie Obadia (Paris, France / Brussels, Belgium)
Galleria Continua (Beijing, China / Havana, Cuba / Les Moulins, France / San Gimignano, Italy / Rome, Italy)
Gallery 1957 (Accra, Ghana / London, United Kingdom)
Loft Art Gallery (Casablanca, Morocco)

Luce Gallery (Turin, Italy)
MAGNIN-A (Paris, France)
Nil Gallery (Paris, France)
POLARTICS (Lagos, Nigeria)
SEPTIEME Gallery (Paris, France)
This is Not a White Cube (Luanda, Angola) THK Gallery (Cape Town, South Africa) Wilde (Geneva, Switzerland)

For more info visit 1-54

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