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Afropunk Festival Preview

Spring has sprung in New York; the tulips are in full bloom, young leaves are poking out on trees and the incessant jingle of ice cream trucks is in the air. As things warm up, ’tis also the season for Brooklyn’s annual Afropunk Fest, to be held this year Aug. 26-27, to announce the lineup. The Afropunk festival began with a 2003 documentary, Afropunk, celebrating black American punk culture, and has grown into an international cultural movement. In their words, this movement was catalyzed by the discovery by “alternative urban kids across the nation (and across the globe) who felt like outsiders [that] they were actually the core of a boldly innovative, fast-growing community.” Twelve years after the first Afropunk Festival in Brooklyn, the annual celebration has bloomed into a huge event drawing many artists whose names, while they might not be Top 40, are nonetheless shining bright in the world of musical innovators. This year’s lineup, as usual, is a sparkling string of gems, many young and fresh in the music game and some veterans of the business. The musical offerings range across blues, rock, alternative r&b, neo-soul, reggae, soul, punk, metal, hip-hop in all forms and several artists whose music is something entirely their own.

Here’s a few that we’ve seen on Afropop before:

Jojo Abot: An abundantly inventive Ghanaian creator who blends music, fashion and design to stunning effect, heard on our Africa Now! 2016 program and in this concert report (and exclusive interview forthcoming).

Sampha: The deeply heartfelt, intimate singer from London featured in our recent Fresh Cuts Vol. 5.

Blitz the Ambassador: An ace Ghanaian rapper who brings Afrobeat and highlife into his instrumentals and rhymes with wit and speed. His recent album, Diasporadical, is reviewed here.

Little Simz: The young, swiftly rising London rapper who was featured in a previous Fresh Cuts.

Dizzee Rascal: Veteran rapper and pioneer of British grime, heard in our program about U.K. dance.

Sinkane: A Brooklyn-based Sudanese performer, A.K.A. Ahmed Gallab, who leads his fluid mix of Ethiopian and Sudanese pop, Motown grooves and indie rock with a unique, crystal-clear high tenor. Here’s a 2015 interview.

Here are some more favorites, new to the pages of Afropop:

Michael Kiwanuka: A British soul singer with roots in Uganda who crafts a sound that has drawn comparisons to Bill Withers, Otis Redding and Curtis Mayfield.

Gary Clark Jr.: Heavy, heavy bluesman and rocker from Texas, reminiscent of the Black Keys, Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside.

Son Little: An r&b singer/guitarist from Philadelphia, crooning and rocking somewhere at the juncture of Mavis Staples and indie-rockers Grizzly Bear.

 Nao: An excellent British singer whose self-described “wonky funk” is an entrancing, impeccably produced meld of funk, neo-soul and electronic beats.

King: Dreamy alternative r&b trio from Los Angeles who have produced some great music and won Grammy recognition for their work with Robert Glasper on his album Black Radio.

Thundercat: One of the more strange and innovative musicians out there these days, uninterested in the confines of particular styles. His music is wildly varied, from his jazz/soul fusion solo work to collaborations with hip-hop icon Kendrick Lamar, Steely Dan singer Michael McDonald and thrash band Suicidal Tendencies. Thundercat seems like he has a lot of fun while cranking out his repertoire of brilliant, masterfully played tunes.

Princess Nokia: The fearless young Afro-Nuyorican whose rhymes and vibes are making waves in the New York scene.

Kaytranada: A Haitian-Canadian DJ and producer making a name for himself with his funky electro-soul vibe.

The Skins: A group of young Brooklynites who joined forces in New York’s School of Rock and have been soaring through the music world, morphing from a firey blues/rock band in 2012 (first video) to a sleek, poppy hip-hop group collaborating with the likes of D.R.A.M. (second video).

Macy Gray: Internationally heard, five-time Grammy nominee and one-time winner r&b and jazz singer best known for her massive 1999 hit “I Try.”

Protoje: A big name Jamaican reggae star from a musical family who has had several wildly popular releases, including “Who Knows,” a collaboration with fellow reggae star Chronixx.

 

There’s much more! Here’s a full playlist featuring most of the artists in the lineup:

Now we just have to wait all summer till the festival itself. See you there!

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