Africa Express take on Terry Riley's minimal masterpiece 'In C'

Malian musicians joined by Damon Albarn, Nick Zinner and Brian Eno.

Fifty years after the first performance of Terry Riley’s landmark minimalist composition ‘In C’, the chameleonic piece is being revived by Africa Express.

The cross-cultural organisation will release a 41-minute version featuring a cast of musicians from Mali plus Africa Express regulars Damon Albarn, Brian Eno and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. The recording was co-produced and mixed by Andi Toma of Mouse on Mars. You can see the full list of contributors below and hear a five-minute sample of the result in the player.

Riley said he was “overwhelmed and delighted” by the project. “I was not quite prepared for such an incredible journey, hearing the soul of Africa in joyous flight over those 53 patterns of ‘In C’,” he said. “This ensemble feeds the piece with ancient threads of musical wisdom and humanity indicating to me that this work is a vessel ready to receive and be shaped by the spontaneous feelings and colours of the magician/musician. I could not ask for a greater gift for this daughter’s 50th birthday.”

Africa Express Presents… Terry Riley’s In C Mali is out digitally on November 24 and physically on January 26 via Transgressive. Meanwhile, as Pitchfork points out, a one-off Africa Express performance of ‘In C’ took place in London’s Tate Modern earlier this month and was recorded for an interactive film which will launch on November 27.

The record follows last year’s Africa Express Presents: Maison Des Jeunes, which paired Malian musicians with acts like Ghostpoet, Holy Other and Cid Rim. A remastered version of ‘In C’ was released by Pure Pleasure in 2013, and Portishead’s Adrian Utley convened a 19-guitar orchestra for his own take on the work.


Adama Koita: Kamel N’goni
Alou Coulibaly: Calabash
Andi Toma: Additional Percussion, Kalimba
André de Ridder: Violin, Baritone-guitar, Kalimba
Badou Mbaye: Djembe, Percussion
Brian Eno, Bijou, Olugbenga: Vocals
Cheick Diallo: Flutes
Damon Albarn: Melodica
Defily Sako, Modibo Diawara: Kora
Guindo Sala: Imzad
Kalifa Koné, Mémé Koné: Balafon
Nick Zinner, Jeff Wootton: Guitar

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