Africa Utopia lights up London's Southbank

Legendary names in African music, including Afro-beat drummer Tony Allen, bring the curtains down on the 3rd annual Africa Utopia festival.

The 3rd annual Africa Utopia festival came to a spectacular finale last night at the Southbank centre in London as some of the all time greats of African music took to the stage for the closing concert.

Last night's Tony Allen Review included not only the legendary afrobeat drummer himself but a host of star collaborators, including the Malian kora greats Toumani and Sidiki Diabaté, Senegal's Baaba Maal and the Blur frontman Damon Albarn. The father and son kora duo had the audience spellbound with beautifully delicate duetting on the magical, harp-like instrument, while Allen's driving afrobeat rhythms had them on their feet.

Friday night saw Cameroon's Blick Bassy [soon to feature on Jazz Travels] pay homage to American blues great Skip James in an atmospheric and varied set as support for the much loved (and travelled) Orchestra Baobab, who brought to mind Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club with their renditions of well seasoned old favourites.

Jazz FM staple, vocalist André Espeut and Afriquoi packed in over 800 people as they mixed electronic music, traditional African sounds and club beats in celebration of the continent's influence on British musicians in a double bill with African Head Charge at the Queen Elizabeth Hall.

Off the stage, the Southbank centre was taken over with the colours and flavours of an African marketplace as the festival sought to explore and celebrate not only the music of the African Diaspora but its food, fashion and theatre too.

All in all, this was another well programmed and outward looking event from the forward thinking venue - we'll look forward to next year's return.

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