The present work is part of a series produced by Opie for the cover of Blur: The Best of. Damon exists in three versions and the present work is the largest (the medium sized version is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery, London).
It is particularly apt that the present work is being sold to aid The African Arts Trust, for following Damon Albarn's time as the front man of Blur, he has actively supported and promoted West African music. He released Mali Music in 2002, a collaboration with Mali musicians including Ko Kan Ko Sata, Afel Bocoum, and Toumani Diabaté & Friends, following a support trip he made on behalf of Oxfam's On the Line Project.
In an interview for the BBC Albarn stated: 'I was approached by Oxfam to go to Mali as their ambassador and get involved in their various initiatives out there, but I felt that was missing the point of using me, a musician.'
Slightly uncomfortable in a political position, Albarn sought to promote cross-cultural exchanges through connections with local musicians. Mali has for the last several hundred years produced an incredible number of extraordinary musicians, and the resulting musical album was a project which further spurred Albarn's passion for African music.
Albarn has since recorded music in Nigeria with African drummer Tony Allen and in 2006 he organized a trip to Bamako, the capital of Mali, wherein invitees such as Fatboy Slim and Martha Wainwright collaborated and performed with some of the country's most respected musicians. He has also organized Africa Express, a collaboration between various artists, which promotes the African music scene through live shows, which have thus far taken place in the United Kingdom, France and Nigeria.
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