Here is a companion video feature for our program Africa Now! 2016 Rocks the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Get to know more about the musicians.
Alsarah and the Nubatones (website)
Alsarah is a dynamic singer-songwriter originally from Khartoum, Sudan. Her family moved to Yemen when she was 9 and then to the U.S. at age 12. She is of Nubian background and many of her songs are celebrations of Nubian culture and are inspired by the dislocations forced upon the Nubians. Calling her sound “East African retro-pop,” her band, the Nubatones, features a classy oud player and darbuka (hand drum) player among others. Alsarah is also an alumna of the celebrated Nile Project recording and international tour, featured on Afropop’s special “Inside the Nile Project.”
Mokoomba is quite simply the most impressive band Zimbabwe has produced in recent memory. Surprisingly, its members do not hail from the country’s Shona majority, like iconic bandleader/songwriters Thomas Mapfumo and Oliver Mtukudzi. Rather, these six musicians come from the tiny Tonga minority and they are proud to bring Tonga-inspired music to the world. The stand-out musician is lead singer Mathias Muzaza, whose gale-force arresting voice can seem to channel Salif Keita or Joseph Shabalala as well as entirely different styles. Guitarist Trustworthy Samende wrote most of the songs on their critically acclaimed debut album Rising Tide. On stage, Trustworthy moves easily between Tonga roots, soukous, funky rap and quasi-rap. A special treat on Afropop’s “Africa Now 2016 at the Apollo Theater” radio program is a side gig at the Falcon Club upriver from Manhattan where they performed a “traditional acoustic” repertoire promised for their next album. (See Banning Eyre’s review of Rising Tide)
Jojo Abot (website)
Jojo Abot is a remarkable Ghanaian singer-songwriter who blends Afro-soul, Afrobeat, reggae, jazz, electronica and house music to create her own unique, signature sound. Her debut EP titled Fyfya Woto created a lot of buzz. The main theme of the EP is on a woman’s right to choose whatever she wants. Abot splits her time between Accra, Copenhagen and New York. We look forward to what she does next.
Bombino is unique among the Tuareg rock acts so popular on the global tour circuit these days. He’s a singer/songwriter/guitarist from Niger, a man on his own, not part of a collective like Tinariwen, Terakaft, Tamikrest, Imarhan or Amanar—all of these Tuareg guitar bands from neighboring Mali. His concerns are similar: a deep love of the nomadic Tuareg lifestyle, despite its many hardships, but also a sense that this beloved lifestyle is under threat, both political and cultural. Bombino’s third studio album, Azel (Partisan) takes its name from a village near Agadez in northern Niger, where the maestro enjoyed a part of his youth before being driven into his own period of exile in Burkina Faso. This session comes on the heels of Nomad (Nonesuch), Bombino’s acclaimed 2014 release produced by Dan Aurbach. Azel moves back and forth between charging electric romps and elegant acoustic numbers. It must be said that the grooves on this album kick like no other Tuareg band. (See Banning Eyre’s review of Azel)
Africa Now! 2016 was copresented by the Apollo Theater and New York’s World Music Institute. The Apollo and WMI would like to thank Time Warner, the Howard Gilman Foundation, and the New York State Council for the Arts for their generous support of Africa Now!