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African Music Takes the Stage

Friday, July 09, 2010

Combine the funk of James Brown with traditional vodun (voodoo) rhythms and add an Afro beat, and you’ll approximate the sound of the popular West African band Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou. Fortunately, there’s no need to attempt that musical cocktail: The band’s first U.S. performance is taking place on Sunday night as part of the Lincoln Center Festival.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, which hails from small country of Benin, leads the way for several other African bands that are taking the stage over the next few days. Konono No. 1, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, and Burkina Electric, among others, ensure that New York’s focus on Africa continues beyond the World Cup.  WNYC's Rob Weisberg gave the backstory on these bands on WNYC's Weekend Edition.

The joyful Congolese band Konono No. 1 headlines Celebrate Brooklyn’s Africa Festival at the Prospect Park bandshell on Saturday, July 17. Described as “Congolese thumb-piano wizards,” Konono No. 1 will be joined by Omar Pene & Super Diamono from Senegal, as well as soul singer Chiwoniso from Zimbabwe and the reggae group Meta & The Cornerstones.

On July 25, Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba is performing at the Central Park SummerStage. Kouyate comes from Mali and is a master of the small stringed ngnoi, which he plays with the flair of a rock star. The music is upbeat, accessible, and sounds both pleasingly foreign and familiar at the same time. A new division of Sub Pop released the band’s new album, I Speak Fula.

Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba will be sharing the SummerStage bill with Burkina Electric, a pop-happy electronica band from Burkina Faso, and the L.A.-based band Fool’s Gold. The lineup promises to be a triple-threat of music that will get crowds moving in Central Park.

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