Damon Albarn, the frontman of Blur, formed the project Africa Express that brings together Western and African musicians. Recently, the project was accused of exploitation by two UK- based musicians, Petite Noir and Nabihah Iqbal. The two musicians shared a contract that asked for all rights in audio, photographs and video recordings for a fee.
Petite Noir, also known as Yannick Ilunga took issue with the contract and posted to his Facebook this past Sunday (the day the project finished). In the post, he said, “21st-century colonization is alive.” He continued, “This is the contract that was given out to all the artists AFTER all the music from everyone was done…once the recording time was done, we were treated like we were nothing all of a sudden.”
Nabihah Iqbal had spent a week in South Africa recently with the Africa Express project for a recording session. After participating in the session, she received the contract stating that all artists must waive their rights to the music they made in exchange for a £1 fee. Iqbal shared her statement along with a photo of the said contract. “People need to know what is really behind the façade of this ‘charity,’” Iqbal said. “How is this “committed to supporting music in Africa”? I have contacted the organizers of Africa Express stating that I cannot sign this contract until it has been amended so that the terms are more egalitarian.”
Africa Express posted a statement to their fans on their Facebook page denying exploiting artists, merely stating that “AE is not run to make a profit,” the statement reads. “As we pay all the travel, accommodation and other costs for Western artists joining us on trips, we ask them to volunteer their time. They can make a contribution to our costs if they are willing. We do not pay them. All our contracts are negotiated, discussed and agreed, not inflicted.”
The post continues: “The artists in Africa are treated differently, reflecting often different circumstances. We do pay them for their time.”
Last week I participated in Damon Albarn's Africa Express project in South Africa. I got the chance to collaborate with local artists, making music, and it was so inspiring. The project was also a very eye-opening experience for me and it made me realise how things really work. pic.twitter.com/YAxrXoyeXz
— Nabihah Iqbal (@nabihahiqbal) February 5, 2018
When the project first came into existence back in 2006, its goal was to bring musicians of all genres and countries together to collaborate, and since Africa Express founded, it has released four albums. It also has seen groups of artists traveling to the continent on multiple occasions to work with musicians there.
Read their statement in full below.
Photo credit by Raymond Flotat