Heads up! The summer Afropop concert season is right around the corner. This is the most active season of the year for touring African, Caribbean and Latin artists. Several festivals have not announced their line-ups but we do know that Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo, Amadou & Mariam, Johnny Clegg, Debo Band, Jimmy Cliff, Celso Pina, Omar Souleyman, are touring. This just may inspire a road trip!
Summer Concert Preview 2012
BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Elsewhere (N. America)
A husband and wife duo from Mali, over the last decade, Amadou and Mariam have become one of the most popular acts in Africa. The group will bring its canny combination of Malian guitar roots and international pop smarts to the US this summer.
Antibalas is a Brooklyn-based afrobeat band that is modeled after Fela Kuti’s Africa 70 band and Eddie Palmieri’s Harlem River Drive Orchestra. One of the most prominent groups in the mid 00’s Afrobeat revival, the group has recently attained a new level of noteriety through their role as house band in the successful broadway musical “Fela.” We’re looking forward to their first album in five years, Sare Kon Kon due out in August.
To regular readers of this site, this great Malian diva probably needs little introduction. Called the “Nightingale of the North” by her fans, Khaira has long been one of Mali’s greatest voices, and performers. Given the situation currently facing the nation, her songs of social critique have taken on even more poignancy.
Musekiwa Chingodza was born into a family of great mbira players in Mwangara village, Murehwa, Zimbabwe, in 1970. He began playing mbira at the age of five and is self-taught. Through listening to other gwenyambira, or great mbira players, he developed a strong attachment to and love for mbira music. He says, “Our music is both medicine and food, as mbira has the power to heal and to provide for people. Mbira pleases both the living and the dead.” In 1991 Musekiwa was a key member of the band Panjea and composed the hit song “Ganda” on Panjea’s Zimbabwean album. For many years Musekiwa taught traditional music at Prince Edward School in Harare. He is an excellent singer, dancer and drummer and plays both mbira dzavadzimu and nyunga nyunga.
Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff first vaulted into the international spotlight through his starring role in the film “The Harder They Come.” Since then, he has put his unforgettably soulful voice to work album after album of deeply spiritual, socially conscious music. Most recently, he has cut an EP with long-time fan Tim Armstrong of the punk/ska group Rancid.
Debo Band is a 11-member group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by charismatic vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. Since their inception in 2006, the band have toured Ethiopia twice, having appeared at both the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis Ababa and Sauti Za Busara in Zanzibar, the largest music festival in East Africa. In North America, they’ve shared stages with Gogol Bordello, The Family Stone, Tilahun Gessesse (one of the great voices of Ethiopian pop since the 60’s), The Ex with Ethiopian sax legend Getatchew Mekuria, Group Doueh, and Khaira Arby and Her Band. They’ve also performed at Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, The Kennedy Center, Montreal Jazz Fest, globalFEST 2012 at Webster Hall, Joe’s Pub, and World Music Festival: Chicago.
Mtukudzi began performing in 1977 when he joined the Wagon Wheels, a band that also featured Thomas Mapfumo. Their single, “Dzandimomotera”, went gold and Tuku’s first album followed, which was also a major success. With his husky voice, Mtukudzi has become the most recognized voice to emerge from Zimbabwe and onto the international scene and he has earned a devoted following across Africa and beyond.
Orchestre Poly Rythmo de Cotonou are a band from Benin, which plays Afrobeat, Funk, Soukous and other styles, often based on Vodun ryhtmns. Active since the late 1960s, and having recorded around 500 songs, they are still touring around the world today, playing in venues such as London’s Barbican Centre. Compilations of their work have recently been issued through Analog Africa, Soundway Records and Popular African Music.
Sierra Leones Refugee All Stars started playing music together in West African refugee camps while their homeland was being racked by years of bloody warfare. Since then, audiences around the world have embraced the band and their utterly extraordinary story. The Refugee All Stars are currently touring North America in support of their brilliant new album Radio Salone.
Malian songwriter and guitarist Sidi Touré. Sidi’s music comes from Gao, a city in the north of Mali, and draws inspiration from traditional music and religion, but is informed by western blues, rock, and culture. The winner of two Malian national awards for best singer, Sidi was leader of Gao’s regional orchestra, The Songhaï Stars, and is a nationally renowned figure in his home country. In 2011, Sidi released Sahel Folk, his debut album for Thrill Jockey, and toured North America for the first time. This tour took him to prestigious venues and festivals, including New York’s Lincoln Center, Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, and the Chicago World Music Festival.