INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
Record Collector FEBRUARY 2015 - by Paul Bowler
AFRICA EXPRESS PRESENTS... TERRY RILEY'S IN C MALI
Groundbreaking masterwork gets African makeover.
The famously bare score for Terry Riley's minimalist masterpiece contains just one page with fifty-three short melodic fragments, which vary from a single note to a brief phase. These can be played by any number or type of instruments at any tempo, making it a versatile piece that's inspired numerous interpretations over the years, from the gamelan-informed original performance to the clanging Chinese percussion of the Shanghai Film Orchestra's 1989 recording and the rock'n'roll energy of Bang On A Can's 2001 effort.
Fifty years on from its first performance this latest reboot finds Damon Albarn's Africa Express project reimagining it as an extended West African jam. Recorded in Bamako using local musicians and instruments (ngoni, calabash, kalimba, djemba, kora and balofon can be heard alongside the more prosaic sounds of guitar and melodica), it's a bold and vibrant experiment that, over its beguiling forty minutes, realigns the piece's hypnotic power to the trance-inducing qualities inherent in Malian music. It's a triumph that proves the versatility and continued importance of both Riley's score and Albarn's ever-evolving African juggernaut.