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Afropop Summer Concert Selects!

During the summer,  New York shrugs off its vicious winter, and… transforms into a tropical city. And while it can be kind of sweaty and though it doesn’t always smell great, New York more than makes up for it with a truly dazzling selection of outdoor music, much of it totally free. The sheer number of concerts and screenings can be overwhelming, but fear not: Afropop is here to guide you to the cream of this abundant crop. Have your calendar at the ready–here are our top summer 2015 concert picks.


Angelique Kidjo / Emmanuel Jal / Rich Medina

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Where: Central Park
When: 2:00 – 7:00 p.m., Tues., June 7

Angelique is an Afropop all-star and a bona fide legend. We could tell you more about her powerhouse voice and inspiring activism, but at this point we hope we don’t have to. Go to this show.  


VP Records 35th Anniversary: Maxi Priest / Gyptian / Bunji Garlin and Fay Ann Lyons / Massive B

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Where: Central Park
When: 2:00 – 7:00 p.m., Sat., June 27

FREE

The still-independent VP records is a central hub for all things Caribbean, and their 35th anniversary party is sure to reflect the enduring power of their roster. Featuring veteran star Maxi Priest, loverman Gyptian, and the massive husband-and-wife team of Bunji “Viking” Garlan and Fay Ann Lyons. 


Paris is Burning @ Celebrate Brooklyn!

Where: Prospect Park Bandshell
When: 7:30 p.m., Fri., June 26

FREE

A classic documentary chronicling the golden era of ball culture in New York, during the mid-to-late ’80s. 


Benyoro, Los Crema Paraiso, and Golem: Music from Mali, Venezuela, the Balkans and Beyond

Where: Seaport District (corner of Fulton St. and Water St.)
When: 5:00–9:00 p.m., Sat., June 27

Benyoro is a fantastic New York-based Mande music group, led by ngoni player Sam Dickey and featuring the finger-wagging kora player Yacouba Sissoko.


King Sunny Adé

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Where: BAM Metrotech Commons
When: 12:00 – 1:30 p.m., Thurs., July 2

King Sunny Ade (or KSA for those in the know) is one of Nigeria’s greatest musicians, and a master of the spacey, polyrhythmic genre known as juju. Fun fact: Seeing KSA play live is what started this whole Afropop thing in the first place. 


Compass / Systema Solar / Helado Negro

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Where: Central Park
When: 5:00 – 10:00 p.m., Wed., July 8

FREE

The LAMC (Latin American Music Conference) presents global dance team-up Compass (bringing together Mexican Institute of Sound and Toy Selectah), the celestially costumed Colombian ensemble Systema Solar, and Brooklyn-based electronic producer/singer Helado Negro.


Tribute to Octavio Brunetti, feat. Pedro Giraudo Tango Orchestra

Where: Damrosch Park
When: Dance lesson @ 6:30 p.m., live music @ 7:30 p.m., Thurs., July 9

Pay your respects to the brilliant pianist Octavio Brunetti, and learn to tango.


Bassekou Kouyate and Ngoni Ba

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Where: BAM MetroTech Commons
When: 12:00 –  1:30 p.m., Thurs., July 9

Bassekou Kouyate is a ngoni god, which is sort of like being a guitar god, but with an intense biting twang. Backed by his family band, he’s sure to deliver a set of powerful spiraling jams.  


Bajofondo / Astro / Los Auténticos Decadentes

Where: Prospect Park Bandshell
When: 7:00 p.m., Fri., July 10

FREE

Another LAMC-sponsored event, this one brings together Argentine-Uruguayan neotango ensemble Bajofondo with Chilean indie poppers Astro, and Argentine ska-rock act Los Auténticos Decadentes.


Vicentico / Ximena Sariñana / No Te Va Gustar

Where: Rumsey Playfield
When: 2:00 – 7:00 p.m., Sat., July 11

FREE

LAMC keeps on bringing it with diverse Spanish-speaking lineups. The headliner, Vicentico, was lead singer of the popular Argentine ska group Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Joining Vicentico is Mexican jazz pop singer Ximena Sariñana and Uruguayan rock group No Te Va Gustar.


Cesária Évora Orchestra / Mayra Andrade / Dino D’Santiago

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Where:
Central Park
When: 2:00 – 7:00 p.m., Sun., July 12

FREE

The Cesária Évora Orchestra pays tribute to the legacy of the beloved Cabo Verdean singer Cesária Évora, just as we did in our 2012 program.


George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

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Where:
BAM MetroTech Commons
When: 12:00 – 1:30 p.m., Thurs., July 16

Who needs the funk? You need the funk. 


Vieux Farka Touré / Tamikrest / DJ Dakar @ Celebrate Brooklyn!

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When: 7:30 p.m., Thurs., July 16
Where: Prospect Park Bandshell

FREE

Son of the legendary guitarist Ali Farke Toure, Vieux has long since grown into a major player in his own right. Here he will be joined by Tamikrest, one of the hardest hitting of the Tuareg guitar bands from the north of Mali. 


Lyricist Lounge: “Live at the BBQ” feat. Large Professor and Marley Marl

Where: Queensbridge Park
When: 7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Thurs., July 16

FREE

“Live at the BBQ” was the first track that a young Nasir Jones rapped on. Large Professor, who produced that track, is a hugely influential character in hip-hop’s history. He’s worked with a ridiculous number of East Coast legends (Rakim, Kool G Rap, Mobb Deep, A Tribe Called Quest…). Marley Marl is credited as one of the first producers to introduce sampling. Needless to say, hip-hop would not be the same without these two.


Pete Rock / screening: “Time Is Illmatic”

Where: Queensbridge Park 
When:
7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Sun., July 19

FREE

Another great ’90s East Coast producer, Pete Rock is responsible for such all time classics as “Juicy” and “The World Is Yours.” Few records tower over the hip-hop genre like Illmatic, the subject of the documentary Time Is Illmatic.


Bombino / Young Fathers / Fantastic Negrito

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Where: Rumsey Playfield
When:
2:00 – 7:00 p.m., Sat., July 25

FREE

Bombino is a young, edgy guitarist from Niger, whose last album pushed the sound of Tuareg guitar into territory that was both hard rocking and spiked with a decidedly country twang. He will be going back to back with Young Fathers, the Mercury Award-winning Afro-Scottish rap group.  


Rock Steady Crew 38th Anniversary Concert: Whodini / Big Daddy Kane and more

Where: Rumsey Playfield
When:
2:00 – 7:00 p.m., Sun., July 26

FREE

This event pays tribute to the legendary B-boying Rock Steady Crew, with golden age ensemble Whodini and Bed Stuy’s own, the incredible MC Big Daddy Kane.


Jellybean Benitez / DJ Street Tech / D-Train

Where: Clove Lakes Park
When:
7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Wed., July 29

FREE

Jellybean Benitez is the secret sauce that powered early Madonna. Get ready for ’80s madness. 


Dr. John and the Night Trippers / Amy Helm

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Where: Central Park
When:
2:00 pm – 7:00 p.m., Sat., Aug. 1

FREE

You might have heard that New Orleans has some of the best music in the world. If you can’t make it to Bourbon Street, you can get a taste of N’awlins’ beloved piano virtuoso Dr. John and his funky band here in Central Park.


Letieres Leite and Orkestra Rumpilezz, with Arturo O’Farrill and Steven Bernstein / Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits / Forró in the Dark: The Music of John Zorn

Where: Damrosch Park
When:
  7:00 p.m., Thurs., July 30

Get in the Afro-Brazilian groove with Lincoln Center Out of Doors!


TKA / Flaco Navaja and the Razor Blades / Tony Touch

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Where: Clove Lakes Park
When: 
7:00 – 9:00 p.m., Sat., Aug. 1

FREE

A Latin dance pop group from right here in New York City, TKA meets up with salsa dura group Flaco Navaja and the Razor Blades, along with mixtape master Tony Touch.


Nação Zumbi / Nation Beat’s Carnival Caravan feat. Cha Wa / DJ sets by Vinil Pompéia

Where: Central Park
When: 2:00 – 7:00 p.m., Sun., Aug. 2

FREE

Originally led by the legendary Chico Science, Nação Zumbi  was at the forefront of the mangue movement that transformed their city, Recife, from a place of dire poverty to a cultural capital of Brazil. They will be performing with Nation Beat, a Brazilian-American group, who is collaborating with New Orleans ensemble Cha Wa, in the spirit of their shared Carnival tradition. Also on the bill are Brazilian vinyl spinners Vinil Pompéia.


30th Anniversary DJ Celebration: Quantic / Gilles Peterson / Afrika Bambaataa

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Where: Rumsey Playfield
When:
  5:00 pm – 10:00 p.m., Sat., Aug., 8

FREE

Three of the world’s greatest DJs: Come, but have zero expectations for what kind of grooves are going to be thrown down. Besides, of course, their incredibly high quality. 


CATCH A FIRE TOUR 2015: Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley with Stephen “Ragga” Marley and Morgan Heritage

Where: Central Park
When:
5:00 – 10:00 p.m., Sun., Aug., 30

The Marley legacy lives on! Come on and get jammin’!


See you out there!!

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  • David Little

    No shortage of great outdoor concert options this summer in NYC. The summer concert not to miss is Irka Mateo at Joe’s Pub on July 14th. It should heat up just as much as the outdoor concerts listed here.