Friday, November 19, 2010

WOMEX 2010 Photo Slideshow and Video Highlights

Here is a great slideshow of photos highlighting some of artists we saw featured at this year's WOMEX 2010:

Banning and Sean were also video producers, collecting content from all over the Copenhagen conference with a FlipCam. Erich Woodrum pulled together a great reel of some of the best moments--from intimate performances to exclusive interviews.  The artists are, in order of appearance, Malick Pathe Sow (Senegal), Samba Chula de Sao Braz (Brazil), Damily, (Madagascar), Les Espoirs de Coronthie (Guinea), and Papa Wemba (Congo).

Lapiro de Mbanga Makes "Impossible" Appearance in Brooklyn

On November 16, Brooklyn's Littlefield performance space was the site of the third Impossible Music Session.  The brainchild of Austin Dacy, these sessions present the music of individuals who are prevented from being present due to political oppression.  Lapiro de Mbanga, a veteran singer and bandleader from Cameroon, has been in prison for over a year on trumped-up charges of "incitement" stemming from public reaction to his 2008 song "Constitution Constipée."  The song criticizes President Paul Biya, in particular his efforts to amend Cameroon's constitution in, essentially, a power grab.  Biya has been president for 28 years, and has no intention of making way for fresh leadership.  Or, apparently, any second guessers.

The evening at Littlefield began with a short film about Lapiro and the Boston-based band Lamine Touré and Group Saloum, who learned "Constitution Constipée," and came down to Brooklyn to perform it for this occasion.  Touré, a Senegalese native, made it clear that this gesture meant a lot to him.  He is well aware that few African singers have shown the kind of courage that Lapiro has, and was pleased and honored to sing the man's song.  Touré and his band were, by the way, completely up to the task as well.  They sounded fantastic.  And what made the evening particularly special was that Dacy managed to reach Lapiro by mobile phone in his prison cell, and the incarcerated singer was able to hear Group Saloum's performance.  Afterward, Lapiro told the crowd at Littlefield that the experience had been "emotional."  That had to be the understatement of the night.

Lamine Touré, Austin Dacy, Maran Turner
Also on hand was Maran Turner of Freedom Now, who gave background on Lapiro's case.  Turns out Lapiro has many powerful advocates, including UN officials and Senator Richard Durban of Illinois.  So far, this support has not moved Cameroon's government to do the right thing and free Lapiro, but it may yet.  For more on the history of this case, visit Freemuse, the website of the international freedom of musical expression organization, which has long championed Lapiro and other artists who face censorship in countries around the world.

On behalf of Afropop, I also spoke a few words, noting that musicians of Lapiro's generation include precious few willing to stand against misdeeds and corruption on the parts of leaders who betray the promises of the independence they helped bring about.  We think of Fela in Nigeria, Mapfumo in Zimbabwe, Mzwakhe Mbule in South Africa, Lapiro on Cameroon, and a few others, but not many.   However, message to corrupt African leaders:  the current generation of popular singers were raised on hip hop frankness, not Independence-era deference.  There will surely be more and more popular artists willing to call out official misdeeds and focus public attention on them.

Kudos to Lapiro for his courage, to Freemuse and Freedom Now for their vigilance, to Lamine Touré and Group Saloum for rising to the occasion, and to Impossible Music Sessions for taking such a creative approach to a difficult situation.  The evening ended with a terrific, mostly mbalax set from Group Saloum.  All else aside, this band kicks ass!

Banning Eyre

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Afropop Meets AfroCubism

Last Tuesday Afropop's spirited crew rendezvoused with the illustrious musicians of AfroCubism for a day of  music, stories, and reunion. Afropop's own Banning Eyre lead the team in covering the long-awaited musical merger of Mali and Cuba. Banning's experience of over two decades in the field of World Music journalism shined through in his amicable relationships with musicians of both countries formed throughout the years.

Djelimady Tounkara (Erich Woodrum 2010)

Our journey began as the ensembles of Mali and Cuba converged on their hotel in Long Island City. Upon our arrival we were quickly ushered into the room of arguably the finest guitarist in Africa, Djelimady Tounkara. Banning previously spent seven months living with the acclaimed Djelimady as a guitar apprentice in Bamako, Mali. The sojourn served as the foundation for Banning's book In Griot Time describing an extraordinary seven month journey deep into the heart of Mali's music scene. Expectantly, Djelimady and Banning eagerly exchanged stories in Bamana and French of the old and the new, with the topic of conversation inevitably leading to an impromptu display of Djelimady's talent. Guitar unsheathed, Djelimady enchanted us with a musical narrative of the connection between the music of Mali and Cuba and how the synthesis of styles is formed with AfroCubism.

Following Djelimady's presentation the Afropop crew descended upon the hotel lobby to discover what other personalities awaited us. We were greeted by several members of AfroCubism awaiting transport to Town Hall for their forthcoming sound check including: Balafonist Fode Lassana Diabate, Vocalist Kasse Mady Diabate, and Guitarist and Vocalist Eliades Ochoa.
Kasse Mady Diabate and Banning Eyre (Erich Woodrum, 2010)
Eliades Ochoa and Banning Eyre (Erich Woodrum, 2010)
Our next stop was Manhattan's own Town Hall for AfroCubism's sound check. We were delighted to receive a seemingly private concert while awaiting an interview with Toumani Diabate. The atmosphere was euphoric as the group prepared to close out their three city tour of North America before heading to Europe. Once backstage, Djelimady indulged us again with his hypnotic finger play as Toumani finished fine-tuning his majestic kora. Finally gracing us with his presence, Toumani sat down with Banning to discuss his latest collaborative project: AfroCubism. Below is a segment of a full interview yet to come.
The performance was a smash-hit and well received by the audience. The band answered the crowd's galvanizing cheers by enthusiastically returning for an encore. We engaged in post performance hobnobbing before departing for Le Grand Dakar restaurant in Brooklyn for Maffe and Jimbere with Toumani and crew. Graciously hosted by Chef Pierre in the serene African ambiance of his inspiration, we soothingly ended a most memorable day with some of the finest musicians of Mali and Cuba. You can anticipate Banning's full interviews with both Djelimady Tounkara and Toumani Diabate coming soon!

Cheers from Afropop & Co.

One final note.  Unfortunately, ngoni maestro Bassekou Kouyaté and bass player José Ángel Martinez--both integral members of the AfroCubism ensemble--did not appear in the Boston or New York shows due to visa complications.  Both these great musicians were forced to remain in Canada because their visas were delayed for "security checking."  Given that Bassekou has completed two US tours this year, his case is especially puzzling.  But despite the intervention of Representative Jim McDermott's office, and Senator John Kerry's, the US embassy in Ottawa refused to issue these two visas.  No explanation for the delay was offered. 

-Erich Woodrum

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Papa Wemba At Womex (Video)

Our good friend Michal Shapiro over at Inter-Muse was also at Womex 2010 and caught some great footage of Congolese artist Papa Wemba. Check out her footage of the Congolese legend in action. Great stuff!

They Don't Call Him Papa Wemba for Nothing! from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Music Works, Aurelio Martinez, Youssou N'Dour and Sol Garifuna Foundation

In the midst of last week's immense run of amazing musical happenings around the city was an event celebrating some exciting news for the world music scene. On Wednesday evening, Aurelio Martinez, master Garifuna musician hailing from Honduras, hosted a lively, music-filled evening to welcome the arrival of a recording studio in Manhattan with a world music focus. Chris Theberge has created Theberge Music Works ( with an aim to draw in artists from around the globe, and the studio is designed specifically with percussion in mind. After Wednesday we can certainly vouch for the beautiful sound created there!

Aurelio Martinez

Over the course of the night we were treated to performances by Aurelio Martinez and his fellow Garifuna musicians. Radiant with smiles, Aurelio talked us through the various Garifuna rhythms as he led a spirited performance of rich percussion, mesmerizing dance and beautiful song. 

A surprise highlight of the evening was a visit from the inimitable Youssou N'Dour who has been a mentor to Aurelio through the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative. Youssou personally selected Aurelio as his protégé in 2009, and the result of their collaborations has been an inspiring exploration of Africa and the Americas, culminating in Aurelio's new album Laru Beya (due for release in January 2011).

Youssou and Aurelio

Youssou and Banning Eyre
Following in the footsteps of Andy Palacio, whose album Wátina brought about a revival of Garifuna music, Aurelio has placed traditional Garifuna rhythms at the heart of each song on his new album. Through his music, Aurelio tells the story of the Garifuna people whose history dates back to the mingling of Arawak, Carib and African peoples after a ship on the Middle Passage from West Africa got wrecked off the coast of St Vincent. Whilst drawing on traditional refrains, Aurelio is decidedly innovative with his music; the strength of the roots allows the tree to grow upwards and outwards. Aurelio also draws some African giants into the picture: Youssou N'Dour brings his soaring vocals into play on several songs and Orchestra Baobab's distinctive synthesis of Wolof, Mande and Cuban sounds adds to the happy melding of cultures.  

Garifuna Dancers

Youssou has also inspired Martinez with his unwavering commitment to humanitarian causes. Martinez, who was the first person from the Garifuna community, and indeed the first person of African descent, to be elected to the Honduran National Congress, has made it his focus to preserve the culture of his ancestors. UNESCO has highlighted the need to preserve the Garifuna culture and Aurelio is all too aware of the challenges facing the community. There are no schools that teach the Garifuna culture; he himself had no education in Garifuna culture or music. A lack of money and support means that those who do dedicate themselves to developing the culture often have to abandon their arts in order to be able to provide for themselves and their families. Aurelio hopes that with his considerable political and artistic influence, he can help to remedy this situation through the Sol Garifuna Foundation. The foundation aims to improve the quality of life for Garifuna populations by promoting social and educational messages through music and by raising funds for the communities around Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatamala and Belize. Aurelio also wants to build schools that will teach the culture and the music, making sure that this unique culture continues to grow and develop into the future.

Chris Theberge, Aurelio Martinez and Youssou N'Dour
The Sol Garifuna Foundation has had a worthy cause of late: raising funds for the families of those who tragically lost their lives in a traffic accident in Honduras earlier this year. Amongst the victims were several Garifuna musicians from the bands 'Chicas Sambat' and 'Kazzabe'. In their memory, Aurelio has joined with Chris Theberge to produce a special tribute song. “Tributo” features a wealth of remarkable musicians, including a special guest appearance by Puerto Rican percussion legend Giovanni Hidalgo. 

Aurelio and Youssou listening to "Tributo" in the studio
 "Tributo" got plenty of play in the studio that night. We love it, as did Youssou! Just watch this clip:

Tributo” was the first song to be recorded at Theberge Music Works; may it bode well for the foundation and the studio. We are thrilled about both!

Tributo” is available to download from itunes:
All proceeds go to the Sol Garifuna Foundation.
Aurelio and Chris 

Media Production by Erich Woodrum

Monday, November 15, 2010

Don't Throw Out That Awesome Music!

We asked Saxon the intern to clean up around the office. And he almost threw out all this great music!

We don't blame him, really. After all, as mentioned before, the Afropop offices are overflowing with music that we don't know what to do with. We REALLY want to give it to you but in exchange we ask you help us out a bit in these tough financial times. Want to help and get some great music??? Well, here is the details:

By donating 20 dollars to Afropop you will:

1. Help Afropop continue its great programming

2. Feel fuzzy inside for helping Afropop

3. Receive an awesome CD of YOUR CHOICE.

4. Stop Saxon from throwing out all this great music!

Sound good?

Or you can send a check or credit card information to:
World Music Productions, 688 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215; fax credit card info to 718.398.6433 or call it in to 718.398.2733

ONE MORE THING: Currently we have an overflowing abundance of a few CD's. So the next 15 donators will get to choose what CD they want! Here are the options:

1. Luisa Maita - Lero Lero

2. Vieux Faraka Toure - Live

3. King Sunny Ade - Baba Mo Tunde

You, our listeners, are the best part of Afropop. You give us great feedback, motivate us to continue working hard when times are tough, and allow us to continue providing great programming with your contributions. We are looking to finish 2010 on a high-note for our 20/10 campaign. So please, take the time to donate 20 bucks and in gratitude to you, we will send you an awesome, random CD from some of the great African artist we love.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Angelique Kidjo and Friends Light up Carnegie Hall

Angelique and The SRC Singers

It has been quite a year for Benin's Angelique Kidjo.  Her new CD Oyo--a musical autobiography featuring cameos by Bono, John Legend and others--garnered sterling reviews upon its release in January.  She played the opening of the World Cup in Johannesburg in June.  She was named a Peace Ambassador for the African Union in July.  And, right here in her adoptive home of New York City, she sold out both Town Hall (in March), and as of last night, Carnegie Hall as well.  I don't know how many artists can say they packed both those august venues in a single year, but it has to be a short list.  And to do it at a time when the economy is tanking and concert ticket sales are off across the board is nothing short of miraculous.  Last night, Angelique demonstrated exactly why she can do all these things.  She is quite simply one of the most talented, charismatic and irresistibly moving performers of our time.

To be sure, it did not hurt that Angelique invited along Youssou N'Dour, Omara Portuando, and Dianne Reeves to share this moment of triumph with her.  But from the moment she took the stage surrounded by The SRC Singers, holding forth a capella without microphones, it was apparent that this crowd belonged to the diva of Benin.  Angelique assembled a classy band for the occasion, featuring, among others, Alex Cuadrado on double bass, Dominic Kanza and the amazing Romero Lubambo of Brazil both on guitars, Thierry Vaton on acoustic piano, loads of percussion and a terrific brass section.  They kicked of the jams early on with the ebullient "Kelele," and then Angelique ushered 80-year-old Omara Portuando of Cuba to the stage.  This past summer, visa complications scuttled Omara's headlining show at Celebrate Brooklyn, so she was a welcome sight and received a raucous greeting.  And let's not forget, Omara famously appeared on this very stage once before in the legendary Buena Vista Social Club debut back in 1998. History was in the air.

Omara Portuando

After a sparking duo with Angelique, Omara held forth on her own with a masterful read of "Guantanamera."  Incidentally, while this might be one of the most hackneyed songs in the entire Latin music repertoire, it was made brilliantly new twice in New York this week.  Tuesday's AfroCubism concert at Town Hall also included an inspired rendition of the old warhorse with Eliades Ochoa holding the center and  Toumani Diabate (kora) and Lansana Diabate (balafon) embellishing with lavish virtuosity.  Eliades and Omara are among the last living Buena Vista stars, so this was a rich week of classic Cuban nostalgia in NYC.

Angelique Kidjo

Angelique next underscored her omnivorous musicality by juxtaposing a sultry piano jazz ballad with a pumped-up take on James Brown's "Cold Sweat."  Then it was time to bring Youssou N'Dour to the stage for a soulful duo performance of Bob Marley's "Redemption Song."

Youssou and Angelique.  Redemption!

At this point, Angelique showed true class in her choice of repertoire for the evening.  She brought a cellist to the stage and left Youssou, the cellist and the double bass to reprieve the luminous song "Xale (Our Young People)," from Youssou's landmark 1990 album Set.  She then joined Youssou and kept the nostalgia rolling with a bracing version of "Set (Clean)," still one of Youssou's most enduring songs and a reliable crowd-pleaser that closed the first half.

Angelique and Youssou get "Set"
In the second half, Angelique invoked the theme of this concert--The Sound of the Drum--with some sharp meditations on slavery and its impact on history and culture.  She opened with her trademark cover of "Malaika," still spine-tingling after all these years, and then moved into "Bahia," with Afro-Brazilian drumming that played nicely into her theme.  Angelique explained that when she was nine-years-old and saw a photo of Jimi Hendrix with an afro, she started asking questions, and her older brother filled her in on what it meant to be "African American."  With the line, "I knew about slavery thanks to Mr. Jimi Hendrix," Angelique launched into her cover of "Voodoo Child."  Given the Benin-Vodun connection, this choice has always seemed especially apt, and although Angelique's uptown Carnegie Hall ensemble couldn't quite give the music the oomph and edge that makes her recording of the song so powerful, the moment certainly served its purpose.

Angelique feeling the spirit
The "drum" was as much a metaphor as a musical focus in this concert, and Angelique noted that it was voices and movements that preserved memories of Africa in the US, where African drumming among was routinely banned during the era of slavery.  This observation served as Angelique's introduction to Dianne Reeves, who delivered one of the most moving moments of the night singing the old spiritual "I'm On My Way" with no microphone and the audience clapping and swaying along in support.  Dianne sparked up the band and channeled the spirit of Bessie Smith, and then Angelique joined her for a transcendent Aretha moment with "Baby I Love You."  "Don't fool yourself," quipped Angelique, "We are all Africans."  The set revved on with Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up," and Angelique's boisterous "Mama Africa," which she dedicated to her late father, and used as an occasion to speak up in favor of hope and optimism in the face of dark times.   Omara and Youssou returned to the stage and the show reached its musical peak.

Dianne Reeves, Youssou N'Dour, Omara Portuando, Angelique Kidjo

Throughout the night, Angelique fans wondered whether she would actually attempt her signature concert finale touch of inviting scores of audience members to join her on stage.  Perhaps Carnegie Hall was just too stuffy a venue for such a populist stunt.  But this was Angelique's night, and she kept to her protocol, filling the enormous stage with dancers and revelers for a lengthy blowout on her singalong standby "Tumba."  The entire hall, right up to the top tiers of the balcony, was on its feet and moving as one.  The force of nature that is Angelique Kidjo had brought worlds together and made everyone feel that whatever nightmares this world serves up, great things are still possible...with love! This was one for the history books.  And there's still more than a month left in Angelique's remarkable year...

Review and photos by Banning Eyre


Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Enigma of Apprenticeship: Hip Deep with the BaAka Forest People

In preparation for Afropop Worldwide's upcoming Hip Deep program on the music of the BaAka (Pygmies) in the Central African Republic, I am reading Michelle Kisliuk's fascinating book, "Seize the Dance: BaAka Musical Life and the Ethnography of Performance."  It details her field work among the BaAka in remote parts of the CAR and the Congo in the late 80s.  Here's an image of Michelle in about 1989 with some of her subjects.

Michelle Kisliuk in Bagandou, CAR, circa 1989

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, a crucial part of Michelle's work involved learning to perform the songs and dances of the people with whom she lived.  So in addition to being a scholar and observer, she was also a participant, more precisely, an apprentice.  One look at this photograph tells you that Michelle had a lot more to negotiate than the particulars of dance moves and vocal techniques.  The cultural gulf separating a banjo-picking ethnomusicologist from Boston from African forest people, skilled hunters, living a life substantially unchanged for centuries, was immense.  And some of the most intriguing passages in the first half of Michelle's book involve the challenges she faced in negotiating the terms of this apprenticeship.  Whom should she compensate for teaching her?   How should she compensate individuals fairly in an egalitarian, collective society?  How would she strike a balance between fairness and overcompensation?  For it is important that the apprentice also retain respect.  This was especially the case for Michelle, who was facing two years of work on limited resources, and had to establish terms everyone involved could live with from the start.

Next week, I will be interviewing Michelle some twenty years after these sensitive negotiations took place.  These days, she lives and teaches at the University of Virginia and is married to Justin Mongosso, whom she first met when he served as her intermediary to the BaAka.  So it seems all has worked out well.  But when we speak, I will be particularly interested in exploring the dynamics of Michelle's unique apprenticeship in its inception.

The whole subject of apprenticeship between an American musician and Africans who are masters of their art is one with personal resonance for me.  In 1995, I went to Bamako, Mali, to apprentice with the great guitarist Djelimady Tounkara.  Of course, the world of Mande musicians in Bamako was worlds away from the one Michelle faced.  The musicians I worked with in Bamako were far more familiar with Western ways than were the BaAka at the time Michelle first encountered them.  Still, some of the issues were the same: how to value the learning of a distinctly local art form, and the mastery of particularly talented individuals within that world; also the built-in paradox of a person from the richest country in the world coming to learn from artists in one of the world's poorest, and how this inevitably affects negotiations.  In my own case, memories of all this came flooding back this week when Afrocubism rolled in to New York City, with my mentor Djelimady in a starring role.  I had not seen him in over five years, and we had a joyful reunion.  For details of how I forged my apprenticeship with Djelimady in 1995, I refer you to my own book, "In Griot Time: An American Guitarist in Mali."  But I am please to report that this apprenticeship continues.  Djelimady still shares with me his boundless knowledge of music and culture, and I feel truly blessed by this.

Djelimady Tounkara and Banning Eyre (Erich Woodrum, 2010)
Keep an eye on this blog for more on Afrocubism's New York debut, and on my interview with Michelle Kisliuk and the ongoing production of Afropop's Hip Deep episode with the BaAka.

Banning Eyre

Sunday, November 7, 2010

11 days left to support film on Festival in the Desert

Three independent film makers are embarking on an ambitious effort to tell the story of the Festival in the Desert in Mali.  They are using Kickstarter to raise funds for the project, and have just 11 days left to achieve their goal.  Click here to watch their trailer, in which I participated, and to find out more about the project. It is a truly worthwhile endeavor.

In other Festival in the Desert news, I spoke with Many Antsar, the festival director, at WOMEX last week, and he echoed the words of Mohmoud Arawani, who explained that the event is newly challenged this year by excessively cautious warnings from Western governments.  As Antsar observed, no one participating in the Festival in the Desert over its 11 years has been accosted or injured, even robbed.  Meanwhile, areas of the Middle East, notably the Egyptian coast, have seen significant carnage during these same years, and yet are not the targets of such warnings.  For the Festival in the Desert, this abundance of caution is both damaging and dangerous.  This is why it is so important that the festival go forward, as Antsar assures it will in January 2011, and that we support it in every way we can. 

Banning Eyre

Thursday, November 4, 2010

WOMEX 2010: Finale!

Danish Radio concert hall: Scene of WOMEX showcases

We returned from WOMEX to one buzz saw of an election day and have been a tad slow to recover...  So it is a happy thing to cast one's mind back to the breathless final day of WOMEX 2010 in Copenhagen.  The evening showcases all went on in the amazing Danish Radio concert hall, the DR Koncerthuset, known to insiders as K3NC2RTHUS4T.  (And you thought Danish was hard to pronounce!)  The venue houses at least 5 concert stages, the largest of which is bigger and grander than any  showcase venue this WOMEX veteran has ever seen.  In short, it's a perfect place to present 16 concerts in a single night.  Of course, it is near impossible to sample all of them, but what a kick to try!

The WOMEX crowd is a tough audience, professionals, artists, insiders, and folks who seem to have seen and heard it all.  For any given act, it is generally possible to find at least someone who thinks it's the greatest thing that ever hit a concert stage, and someone else who thinks it's derivative trash from talentless amateurs.  All part of the fun.  But one act that seemed to thrill everyone who saw it was Samba Chula de Sao Braz from Bahia, Brazil.  This highly African proto-samba performed mostly by folks over 60 just had so much joy, spirit, and raw authenticity that noone could resist it.  Afropop recorded a special session with this group that will be featured in one of two upcoming WOMEX 2010 radio broadcasts.

Samba de Chula de Sao Braz

While the sambistas were still partying down in the Foyer, a more restrained but also joyous performance was unfolding in the large theater.  Kamel El Harrachi is an Algerian exile living in France, and the son of a legend of Algerian chaabi music, the late Dahmane El Harachi, composer of the much covered Algerian classic "Ya Rayah."  That song was a high point in Kamel's set.  Like so many North African groups, Kamel's featured a banjo, which in our interview he said goes back to the 19th century and the early roots of chaabi.  This was interesting, as the representative we spoke with from Morocco's Oudaden said that banjos only began turning up in regional groups in the mid-20th century.  Mysteries to sort out there...   Both of these groups will be featured in our WOMEX broadcasts, and in a future program we are developing on Berber (Amazight) music.

Kamel El Harrachi

If you visit the WOMEX website, you will see that there was a great deal of music on these stages that has nothing to do with our principle concern--Africa and the African diaspora.  For instance, I caught a mesmerizing set of music from Afghanistan by Zohreh Jooya & Ensemble Afghan.  But there was so much great Afropop-oriented fare this year that, for our team, it was difficult to get past it to hear much else.  No complaints, though.  WOMEX offers far more than any one person can take in and we were thrilled to find so much great African fare in the mix.   One treat was to catch up with Dobet Gnahoré of Ivory Coast and France.  Dobet has continued to develop her voice, which is more compelling than ever, and her compositions.  She was always a striking stage performer, with her distinctive makeup, hair design, costumery and dramatic moves and poses.   Seven months pregnant on this occasion, she invited her sister to dance in her place, but delivered an impressive performance generating much passionate praise and critique among the WOMEXicans.  Naturally.   For our part, we eagerly await a new album.

Dobet Gnahore

The final live set of this year's WOMEX came from a jaunty, funky Istanbul band called Baba Zula.  While the musicians strummed tars, struck drums, sang, danced and cavorted playfully about the stage, a painter created a colorful backdrop, projected on a screen behind the musicians.  This was hardly an obvious choice for a show closer.  But its quirky spirit carried the day in the end.

Baba Zula

At 2AM, we skipped out of the DR Koncerthuset, where a DJ from Macedonia was holding court. We crossed town to the Copenhagen Jazzhouse for an off-WOMEX late night party with DJ Tudo of Brazil. Tudo is one remarkable cat. He's a producer, a superb bass player, and also an ambitious field recordist with over 1300 hours of his own recordings of traditional music from all over Brazil. These recordings go into his CDs and DJ mixes and the result is quite excellent. To the sounds of berimbaus, samba drums, creaky fiddles, and glorious, melodious vocal chants, the final dance of this WOMEX went down. Tudo is one of the warmest, friendliest DJs you're apt to find, taking time to chat, debate and pose for photos with fans, all while minding his mix. This party proved a transcendent, liberated finale to an extraordinary four days of music.

DJ Tudo

Finally, it must be said the everyone's experience of WOMEX is unique. I have emphasized the showcases, which bands and artists go to great effort and expense to stage, there is much more. The day time trade floor is a maze of 200+ stands filled with musicians, record label reps, festival presenters, booking agents, and so on. We interviewed a number of musicians not on the official stages, and collected so much music on CD and DVD that it will take us weeks, if not months, to absorb and evaluate it all. Beyond this, there were films, conference sessions, colloquia, and informal parties at the stands, during which all sorts of plans were being hatched for the future. With all the challenges in the world today--and now, my mind swings back to that buzz saw election--everyone at WOMEX is feeling pressure. The turnout was a little down this year, not surprisingly considering the world's economic state. But the spirit of the occasion was undiminished. That is a testimony to the vision, commitment, and determination of these dedicated artists and professionals. Long live WOMEX! We'll be back.

Sean Barlow, Bill Bragin, DJ Tudo, Banning Eyre

Text and most photos by Banning Eyre

Monday, November 1, 2010

Angelique Kidjo At Carnegie Hall

One of Africa’s most iconic figures Angelique Kidjo will be performing at Carnegie Hall on November 11th. The show “Sound of the Drum” will feature the brilliant Afropop star telling the journey of the drum through rhythms, songs, and dances from Africa to the Caribbean and on to America, joined by a few of contemporary music’s most important icons such as Youssou N'Dour, Omara Portuondo, Dianne Reeves, Christian McBride, Romero Lubambo.

This is a show NOT to be missed. And if you are still not convinced, check out the promo video below.

More information and tickets can be found here at

What to Do With All This Great Music?

We have SO MUCH music piling up that it's taking over our intern Helen's work-area!

Just look!

We really want to clear off Helen's space by sending off these CDs to you, our listeners. And you can! Here's the details...

By donating 20 dollars you will:

1. Help Afropop continue its great programming

2. Feel fuzzy inside for helping Afropop

3. Receive an awesome CD

4. Provide poor Helen, our intern, a clean work space.

Sound good?

Or you can send a check or credit card information to:
World Music Productions, 688 Union Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215; fax credit card info to 718.398.6433 or call it in to 718.398.2733

You, our listeners, are the best part of Afropop. You give us great feedback, motivate us to continue working hard when times are tough, and allow us to continue providing great programming with your contributions. We are looking to finish 2010 on a high-note for our 20/10 campaign. So please, take the time to donate 20 bucks and in gratitude to you, we will send you an awesome, random CD from some of the great African artist we love. Such artist include Vieux Farke Toure, King Sunny Ade, Luisa Maita and many more.

Lapiro, Live From Prison

As we recently covered, Cameroonian artist Lapiro De Mbanga has been unjustly jailed. His run-ins with the government stem from his song 'Constitution constipée’ (‘Constipated constitution’), which expressed his opinion against the government's plan to expand its powers in a new constitution.

Well an organization called in cooperation with will be bringing Lapiro to Brooklyn for a concert, kind of. Check out the details in the video below: