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Downtown Brooklyn Celebrates the New Africa with Djembes and Digital Beats

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This Saturday, there will be digital music as well as djembes onstage at the Dekalb Market in Downtown Brooklyn. The celebration of contemporary African music, called Afrika21: The Showcase, is an unofficial CMJ Music Marathon showcase featuring DJ's and musicians from Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa.

The one-night festival, which was organized by the Brooklyn organizations BBox Radio and Society HAE, is seeking to redefine the way people think about Africa, according to Society HAE founder and director Ngozi Odita.

Odita said for this weekend's concert she chose young African artists whose music doesn't shy away from having a broader political message.

"I think the dominant conversation when you hear about Africa tends to focus on AIDS in Africa or corruption," she said. "These are real problems on the continent -- they exist -- but we often don't really hear about these great things that are happening in the arts and technology. There are a lot of very positive things happening and I find the conversation doesn't often focus on that."

With lyrics that openly address issues of privacy from the government and abuses of power, South African musician Nomsa Mazwai hopes to get audiences clued in to her politics as well as her drum beats and bass tracks.

"I'm a social being and a social activist and I'm very involved in global political issues," said Mazwai, who is a Fullbright scholar in Economics at Fordham University. "I'm a young person, I'm a critical thinker. In my music I really look at international politics and how that impacts my experience as an African."

Mazwai will perform on Saturday from 5 to 10 P.M., as will the Nigerian musician Khali, the Ethiopian artist Sheba, Chief Boima and Lamin Fofana from Sierra Leone and DJ Frei of the Ahficionados.

Along with the music, there will be an exhibit up, "Portraits of Emerging African Musicians," which is a group of photos by Delphine Fawundu of African hip hop artists. One such photo of Seun Kuti is pictured at right. He is posing in the spirit of his father, Fela Kuti.

Afrika21: The Showcase will take place on Saturday night at the Dekalb Market, at BBOX Radio at 138 Willoughby St. (off Flatbush Ave.).