Blur‘s Damon Albarn, who has travelled to Mali frequently since 2002 to collaborate with local artists there, was given the status of “local king” earlier this month when he returned to the West African nation to perform at the Festival Acoustik Bamako. BBC Radio 4 reports that in addition to the honorary title, Albarn also had a classroom at a local music school named after him.
“I’m not used to this sort of thing, but it’s fantastic to see this classroom,” Albarn said of the honor. “And it’s a school dedicated to music and dance. That’s where my heart is, so my heart is here.” Albarn recorded his 2002 LP Mali Music as well as a pair of Africa Express albums, his collaboration with Brian Eno and Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Nick Zinner, with Malian musicians.
Earlier this month, Albarn ventured back to Mali to perform at the Festival Acoustik Bamako despite the country being in a “state of emergency” following a terrorist attack in November. “It’s the message of coming here and doing this that’s the most important thing,” Albarn told The Guardian at the time, “and being able to keep the agenda on music. The country’s music is an inspiration for me and that’s why I’ve been here so many times.”
Listen to BBC Radio 4’s report on Albarn’s “local king” status below: