APAP, the annual global performing arts conference and marketplace, now in its 57th year, starts on Wednesday January 8th and lasts until Monday the 13th. If you live in New York, the amount of great live music is often overwhelming and that’s going to be especially the case over these next five days. So to help you out in your concert-going ventures, here is the Afropop guide to APAP’s 2014 Showcases, broken down by venue.
Alwan for the Arts
The Maqam Fest will be taking place on the Friday the 10th, presenting a wide-ranging experience of music from the Arab-Islamic world. Highlights from the Maqam Fest’s lineup include the Afghan-American rubab player Quraishi, whose music draws upon Afghan court music and traditions of the Pashtu, Uzbek and Tajik. Then there is the Macedonian/Turkish Sazet Band, who plays Romani wedding music and Mitra Sumara, a New York-based big band that plays in the style of pre-Revolution Iran, covering tracks by the likes of 70s pop icon Googoosh. Check out one of Sazet Band’s raucous wedding anthems below:
Want to hear what a cross between Johnny Cash and Congolese rumba sounds like? Well, Smokey’s Secret Family (playing on the 10th at 10) might not be that exactly, but it is Smokey Hormel’s Congolese rumba project and Smokey did play with Johnny Cash (supporting him on his moving cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt,” among other songs). At the very least, we’re intrigued.
The Cutting Room
Also on the Friday the 10th, the Export Nola APAP Showcase is bringing some of New Orleans’ top brass bands to New York. That lineup includes the Stooges Brass Band, who were chosen in 2012 by the US State Department as cultural ambassadors to Pakistan, along with Big Sam’s Funky Nation, who’ve made an appearance in the HBO show, Treme. Here’s a taste of what Big Sam’s like live (couldn’t resist choosing “Big Ole Booty”):
Dom La Nena, playing on the Saturday 11th, is a Brazilian cellist and singer. Her music is simple, very pretty and rather forlorn– we’re expecting a memorably intimate performance.
The Electric Cowbell and Barbes Showcase takes place on Saturday January 11th. Electric Cowbell and Barbes are record labels (and a venue in Barbes’ case) that Afropop stays eagerly attuned to, and this showcase is no exception. Among the many highlights is Cheick Hamala Diabate, a Malian-born, Maryland-based ngoni player. We sponsored Cheick Diabate’s release party for his Prudence EP last April, so it’s safe to say that we’re giving this performance the Afropop seal of approval. Then there is the Feedel Band, a DC-based group that includes saxophone player, Moges Habte, who played in one of Ethiopia’s most popular 70s bands, The Walias Band. That brings us to Habte’s former bandmate, Hailu Mergia, whose return to the spotlight was one of our favorite stories of 2013. Hailu will be playing with Low Mentality. Those who saw their previous New York performance in December have been raving about it ever since, so this will be one of Afropop’s most-anticipated shows of the APAP. Below, hear a track from last year’s reissue of Hailu Mergia & His Classical Instrument.
On Monday, January 13, The Big Bang Festival will be presenting a great sampling of percussion from some of the world’s percussion capitals. Among those performing will be Gaston “Bonga” Jean-Baptiste, an Afro-Haitian drumming master; Joaquin Pozo, a Cuban congas player, known as “el pulpo” or the octopus for his impressive technique; and Alidu, a native of Tamale, Ghana, who was born into a family of talking drum chiefs or “Bizung.” Watch Bonga demonstrate the vodou drumming style below:
Up-and-coming NYC production crew Medium Rare puts together a bill of young New York based talent for their free Monday night showcase. Including the Afrobeat stylings of the female-fronted group Underground System and the genre-expanding sounds of Emefe, as well as the party-starting (and singularly well-named) Pegasus Warning.
We’re going to try to make as much of these events as we can (and for those not in the area, there just might be some Afropop APAP recordings on the horizon). Hopefully this guide will make it a little bit easier for you to see us there!