• Denholm Hewlett

[Film/Music] Africa Express: EGOLI (Documentary)

Psychic Garden are proud to exclusively premiere the new documentary 'EGOLI' for international music collective, Africa Express.


This documentary which is directed, filmed and edited by resident creative Denholm Hewlett, chronicles Africa Express' 2018 journey to Johannesburg, South Africa and the creative evolution of EGOLI. Revealing the music making process, intimate collaborations and fascinating characters behind their latest studio album, featuring dozens of talented artists from Africa and the West, including resident creatives Otim Alpha and Moonchild Sanelly.


The film also features the music of... BCUC, BLK JKS, Blue May, Damon Albarn, DJ Spoko, Dominowe, Faka, Georgia, Ghetts, Gruff Rhys, Infamous Boiz, Mr Jukes, The Mahotella Queens, Morena Leraba, Muzi, Nick Zinner, Nonku Phiri, Phuzekhemisi, Poté, Remi Kabaka Jr, Sibot, Zolani Mahola.


Please enjoy the documentary below and the music of EGOLI - City of Gold ~


Continue reading to discover more about EGOLI and the ideas behind Africa Express and the origins behind this inspirational musical journey...


EGOLI Poster - Design by Alex Messer

In January 2018, Africa Express travelled to Johannesburg, South Africa with an ensemble of talented musicians for a week long musical residency. The goal was to record an electronic album in seven days and perform the new songs on the last day at a secret live show. A profound week of open-minded discovery, joyous collaboration and chaotic music making ensued.


EGOLI - Muzi, Poté, Otim Alpha, Infamous Boiz, Ghetts, Dominowe - Photo by Denholm Hewlett

The ethos and format was for everyone to collaborate and create music freely with whomever they wanted, a truly organic and empowering creative experience that resulted in EGOLI; a stunning collection of 20 tracks which capture the refreshing and poignant sounds of Afro Futurism, recorded in the electronic music epicentre of South Africa. The MOLO EP and EGOLI LP released in 2019 to critical acclaim.


Otim Alpha, Zolani Mahola, Gruff Rhys - Photo by Denholm Hewlett

To mark the three year anniversary of the EGOLI recording sessions in Johannesburg we are finally releasing this film that showcases the creative process and plethora of talented artists behind Africa Express' latest album. Filmed back in 2018, this immersive and uplifting documentary is a vibrant time capsule of the group's incredible musical odyssey to South Africa which encapsulates the power of music, collaboration, and the unknown.


EGOLI LP - Artwork by Gareth Halliday
"Chronicling the creation of EGOLI in Johannesburg was one of the most inspiring and memorable experiences of my life. A euphoric week of free-flowing collaboration, fascinating characters, immersive sounds and infectious creativity. The format of a musical workshop with the energy of an electrifying international music festival. I believe this film captured the raw spirit of Africa Express's creative ethos and their cross-cultural mission to unite African and Western musicians to create powerful new musical connections. I was lucky enough to be placed right in the heart of their latest experiment and told to capture all of the beautiful chaos unfolding around me." ~ Denholm Hewlett ~ Film Director Statement

Otim Alpha & Moonchild Sanelly - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
“Being a part of such a diverse and deep musical project was so dope. We were like kids in a candy store where you just walk in to any of these crazy little studios packed with incredible musicians, and you could make any genre of music. I loved every minute of it. My heart was on fire” - Moonchild Sanelly (South Africa)

Moonchild Sanelly & Damon Albarn - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
"Africa Express is really a workshop for musician. I collaborated with a couple of artists while I was there and it was beyond my words, a beautiful, beautiful experience." ~ Morena Leraba (Lesotho)

Morena Leraba - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
“Such a special project... goes far beyond just a record …. Absolute honour to have been involved. Africa Express is such an important platform & collective.” – Georgia (UK)

Georgia & Otim Alpha - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
"I was so thrilled to be surrounded by all of these incredible musicians from all over the place, anyone could work with anyone, it's something I've never experienced before and I would love to repeat it, if i ever get the chance again." ~ Zolani Mahola (South Africa)

Zolani Mahola & Gruff Rhys - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
“JOHANNESBURG is an embodiment of what Africa Express means to me... artists meeting, bonding and writing something so real and honest. This reminded me just how powerful and simple music can be. It completely destroyed my demons and set fire to a new chapter as a producer.” – Sibot (South Africa)

Sibot in his Studio - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
"I loved it so much, it's one of the most beautiful things i've seen in my life, just enjoying going to a different place you have never seen, meeting new people, making friends and hearing brand new types of music that I have never heard before. You have made me happy you see? I feel a bit bigger now!" ~ Otim Alpha (Uganda)

Otim Alpha & Nonku Phiri - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
"That week was such an incredible and intense experience. I've never seen a group of people being so productive and friendly and positive. The whole Africa Express format is brilliant and should be replicated everywhere in all sorts of ways." ~ Blue May (UK)

Gruff Rhys & Blue May - Photo by Denholm Hewlett
"I think it's an exercise that everyone should try. Go to a place, embrace the cultural environment, try to get something done in a limited space of time which will also cut down your choices...and see where that leaves you, see what you get out of not knowing what you're doing..." ~ Remi Kabaka Jr. (UK)

MOLO EP - Artwork by Gareth Halliday

~ EGOLI was directed, filmed and edited by Psychic Garden Co-Founder Denholm Hewlett. Remi Kabaka Jr, Chris Kets and Lesedi Rudolph all provided additional cinematography. Sound Design by Nadia Chopra. Special thanks to Lauren Roth De Wolf, who made this release possible. ~


~ ENJOY THE BEHIND THE SCENES PHOTO GALLERY ~





THE HISTORY OF AFRICA EXPRESS


Africa Express is a UK-Based organisation and musical enabling fund established by Gorillaz frontman Damon Albarn and Journalist Ian Birrell back in 2006. Africa Express' mission is to facilitate organic cross-cultural collaborations between musicians in Africa, the Middle Eastern and Western countries, breaking down barriers and the prejudices associated with 'world music' whilst presenting a positive image of modern Africa to counteract against commonly negative media portrayals of the continent.



Hailed as the most revolutionary force in popular music, Africa Express brings together musicians from different cultures, genres and generations to break boundaries and offer a new perspective on Africa and its music. Each event is unique, based upon on-the-spot collaboration and filled with unique moments of magic. The collective was officially founded in 2006 with a memorable trip to Mali linking the likes of co-founder Damon Albarn, Martha Wainwright and Fatboy Slim with local stars such as Toumani Diabaté, Bassekou Kouyaté and Amadou & Mariam. Then came the first public event: a legendary five-hour show at Glastonbury described by The Times as “an absolute lose-yourself epiphany for everyone who was there”.



Africa Express has since hosted trips to Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, South Africa and Mali. They released their first album in 2009 and now have five albums in total. The group have staged lauded shows in Lagos, London and Liverpool, as well as festivals across Europe such as Roskilde in Denmark and bespoke shows before 25,000 people in Paris city centre and 50,000 on a Spanish beach. Each performance is unique, with artists taking part creating the set before the show, and all have been met with rave reviews, inspiring artists and audiences alike.



In 2012, Africa Express filled a train with 100 African and Western artists to play a week of shows across England, Wales and Scotland as part of the London 2012 Olympic Festival. The extraordinary tour, with performances in shops, schools and station platforms as well as more traditional venues, made waves worldwide with the likes of Baaba Maal and Carl Barat touring together. The final five-hour gig at King’s Cross saw Bassekou Kouyaté, Damon Albarn, Fatoumata Diawara, John Paul Jones, Gruff Rhys, Paul McCartney and Rokia Traoré all performing together at one stage.



The following year Africa Express returned to Bamako, Mali following the coup and Islamist takeover in the north to record two critically acclaimed albums (Africa Express Presents… Maison des Jeunes and Africa Express Presents… Terry Riley’s In C Mali) with local artists. The In C Mali live performance project has subsequently been performed in partnership with Ruhrtriennale, Fondation Louis Vuitton Paris and The Space / Tate Modern.



In 2016, more than 50 Syrian musicians and singers were reunited by Africa Express as The Orchestra of Syrian Musicians for a European tour alongside guests artists including Damon Albarn, Rachid Taha, Paul Weller and Bassekou Kouyaté. For many of the Syrians, it was the first time they had seen each other since the outbreak of conflict in their homeland five years earlier. The widely acclaimed tour, and subsequent album, helped highlight and celebrate the remarkable music culture of Syria, providing a more positive perspective than what was depicted in the news.



Africa Express then gathered in Johannesburg, South Africa to record an electronic album in a week of discovery, collaboration, music-making and live performances. A 4 track EP, MOLO – and a critically acclaimed 18 track album EGOLI was released in 2019 on the newly created Africa Express Records. In 2019 Africa Express played a sold-out one-off gig in a circus tent in Leytonstone to headline the Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture celebrations, a show described by Uncut as “proof that music is a universally understood language … a celebration designed to bring joy”.


Damon Albarn & Moonchild Sanelly - Photo by Damon Albarn

~ PSYCHIC GARDEN

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