Damon Albarn gathered together London’s Pentecostal City Mission Church Choir to pay tribute to an orphaned baby elephant he met on his travels in Africa in the Giorgio Testi-directed video for “Mr Tembo” off his solo debut, Everyday Robots. As he conducts the singers, a TV plays images of an elephant interspersed with cartoons of its habitat being overrun with human life.
In January, Albarn told Rolling Stone that he never thought he would record a song about a pachyderm, because his usual M.O. would be to back-pocket it for something like “kids’ birthdays.” He said he had met the baby elephant in Mkomazi, Tanzania. “It was recently orphaned and walked onto this aerodrome; the people I know took it in and called it Mr. Tembo,” he said. “I was there, and I met this little elephant, and he was very sweet. I sang it to him. It was recorded on a phone, and in a light-hearted moment, I put it on a list for Richard [Russell, producer].”
Russell said he liked the track and encouraged him to record it. As for whether the elephant liked it or not is up to interpretation. “To be honest to you, when I sang it to the elephant, it shat itself,” he said. “Because it was on milk, it was white elephant baby poo, if you can imagine that. It’s quite something at close vicinity.”
Albarn has a handful of U.S. dates planned for the rest of the year, including appearances at the Governors Ball in New York and Bonnaroo. Between those, he’s booked dates in New York, Boston and Baltimore. Earlier this month, Rolling Stone premiered video of him singing the Everyday Robots track “Photographs (You Are Taking Now)” on a rooftop in Austin, Texas, during his South by Southwest.