DAMON ALBUM HAS gone one better than the OBE he was awarded in the New Year’s Honours list, as we discover in the new issue of MOJO – on sale in the UK from Tuesday (February 23).
In the new edition (April 2016 / #269) MOJO accompanies the Blur frontman on his recent trip to Mali to play Toumani Diabaté’s Festival Acoustik Bamako and observes his enthronement as an honorary royal.
Granted the status of a local king and given a new name “Makandjan Kamissoko”, Albarn was honoured by the Griots, Mali’s leading hereditary musicians and guardians of its history and song, for his support of the country’s music and artists.
Indeed his involvement in last month’s four-day festival, organised by leading kora player Diabaté, came as the Foreign Office discouraged “all but essential travel” to the region, but the singer tells MOJO of the importance of “actively participating in a festival in a place that in some ways has become a no-go zone for Western artists, let alone tourists.”
With terrorist incidents in the region and the activity of Islamic extremists causing the cancellation of music festivals previously held in the country, Albarn suggests that Mali’s musical tradition is fighting for survival.
“If we don’t give them that revenue through tourism, and keep a conversation going, things could get really horrendous here. Things can just stop and never come back to life,” he says, before adding that when he first visited 15 years ago he “spent every night in small bars and music venues, of which there are none now. These streams have dried up. This culture needs water.”
Order the new MOJO now for the full interview, an account of Albarn’s Mali travels and much more.