Monday, February 28, 2011

Shiyani Ngcobo dies, February 18

We recently received the very sad news that preeminent maskanda guitarist Shiyani Ngcobo died in South Africa on February 18. Shiyani was a tremendous artist, and a champion of the acoustic roots of the popular Zulu guitar style.  His album Introducing Shiyani Ngcobo was a revelation for fans of African fingerstyle guitar.  Shiyani was also a dear friend of Afropop Worldwide.  We interviewed him at length and spent some very happy days with him and his band around the time of their one US concert, at Carnegie Hall's Zankel Theater in the winter of 2007.

That concert was remarkable.  Never before had straight-ahead Zulu maskanda from Kwa Zulu Natal been performed on an American stage.  And here it was at Carnegie Hall!  Shiyani and his band played for a solid two hours, far beyond the scheduled length of the concert.  Perhaps he somehow knew this would be his one chance to play for an American audience, and he took it to the limit.  Personally, it was one of the great concerts of my musical life.

Shiyani Ngcobo, Eyre 2007

We don't know almost anything about how Shiyani died, but we do know how he lived, as a deeply committed musical spirit.  He brought tremendous happiness to many, and we will miss him profoundly.

Banning Eyre

Read Shiyani's World Music Network obituary. 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

A.J. Racy brings musical ecstasy to New York City

When Afropop Worldwide set about planning four Hip Deep radio programs to be researched in Egypt later this year, one of the first people we turned to was virtuoso musician, composer, author, scholar, and UCLA Ethnomusicology professor A.J. Racy.  Professor Racy was the principle voice on Hip Deep's flagship edition, a program about "tarab" the art of ecstasy in Arabic music.  He also contributed to Hip Deep's programs on improvisation, and Umm Kulthum, and has been an adviser to the series throughout its seven-year history.  Racy is a rare guy, not only an authority on Arabic and Near Eastern music, but a brilliant practitioner, and an open and generous human being.

A.J. Racy and buzuq at Alwan for the Arts in NYC
This past Saturday, Racy made a rare visit to New York City for a sublime, mostly solo performance at Alwan for the Arts, a cultural organization for the city's Arab community.  Racy traveled with duffel bags of instruments, including two long-necked buzuqs, and a variety of end-blown reed flutes, from the classic nay to the deep-toned Egyptian kawala to the mijwiz double-pipe that produces a hypnotic, almost eerie, droning sustained using a challenging circular breathing technique. 

It is nothing short of astounding how casually accomplished Racy is on his instruments.  I say casually, because he maintains an air of peaceful ease even while executing extremely difficult and nuanced performances.  This concert was titled "The Soul Remembers," and for all the virtuosity and versatility on display, Racy kept the focus on the spiritual and cultural origins of the music--the poetry of Rumi, the mystic quality of the nay's breathy, almost human voice, the joy of a village dance.   He improvised mesmerisingly, as on "Journey of the Soul" a lulling, expansive exploration of the larger buzuq, with its loose strings and deep, almost buzzing, tonalities.  Near the end of his second set, Racy was joined by trumpeter Amir ElSaffar and percussionist Zafer Tawil.  (A second percussionist joined them for the encore.)

Amir ElSaffar and A.J. Racy

On an old Lebanese love song, "Ya Loro Hubbuki," ElSaffar doubled Racy on the melody using a muted trumpet, perfectly calibrated to match the understated tone of the buzuq, and in perfect rhythmic synchrony.  The three players all took highly expressive solos, with the other two players largely holding back.  This was Near Eastern salon music at its best, uplifting and intimate and buoyed by flawless musicianship and palpable mutual respect.

A.J. Racy with kawala
After the music, there was some talk about Afropop's Egypt plans, with many commenting that we have chanced upon a most "interesting" time to visit this hub of Arabic and African music.  Watch this blog for more on that project.  And check out Alwan's website for more splendid concerts in New York City.

Banning Eyre

Cedric Watson: Creole Cowboy in Chicago

Composer Cedric Watson

Cedric Watson strode lithely onto the stage at Old Town School of Folk Music with more than a hint of swagger, and on accordion, fiddle and vocals, shared his unique take on zydeco, the iconic music of the French-speaking black Creole culture of south Louisiana.

A San Felipe, Texas native who now resides in Lafayette, Louisiana, Watson creates music reflecting his own eclectic cowboy culture that includes Spanish ancestors from the Canary Islands (located between Spain and Northern Africa) and African as well as Native American and French heritage. As a result, the music he plays with his group Bijou Creole is an irresistibly tasty brew, replete with infectious polyrhythmic grooves inspired by various rhythms of the African diaspora.

The auditorium at Old Town School was packed with couples dancing, some doing a traditional Cajun two-step, others just being inspired by the West African and Caribbean side of the music and shaking body parts with abandon. The band’s percussionist, Zydeco Mike, masterfully scraped his rub board, in addition to performing on bongos and African drums, and added a touch of reggae Rastafarian culture to some of the tunes. Another less familiar element for a zydeco band was Lance Foster´s clarinet, which added a warm and textured layer to the melodies played by Watson. On the bass, renowned multi-instrumentalist D'Jalma Garnier III kept the groove smooth, and on drums, the son of Watson’s mentor and Cajun music great Edward Poullard, Ryan Poullard, laid out a second line New Orleans street beat, upon which the Watson’s voice glided and soared.

Percussionist Zydeco Mike
We were treated to a veritable array of traditional Louisiana roots music including waltzes and seriously down-home bluesy tunes, often nuanced by influences from places in the pan-Creole world that Watson likes to bring in to his music, like Haiti and the French Antilles. Many of the songs were in Creole, so Watson narrated the tales behind some of older Cajun tunes. For example "La Chanson De Limonade" (The Lemonade Song) is about drinking lemonade on Sundays to get over a Saturday night hangover. And before breaking into a mournful yet still lively fiddle jig called Cochon de Lait, which means, "suckling pig", Watson shared the tune’s story (complete with squealing pig sound effects and finger-licking) about the six to twelve-hours slow roast of a cochon de lait. It was the perfect example of zydeco´s special gift – on the one hand, it’s an earthy music, intimately connected to the tastes and sights and smells of a particular land, yet those experiences are somehow distilled into melodies that speak to all of us in the languages of sheer joy, raucous exuberance and profound longing. 

Clarinetist Lance Foster
I had the chance to speak briefly with Watson before the concert, while he was dealing with the travails of a broken accordion mere hours before the performance. “The business part of music can be hard,” he sighed, “There’s a lot of things that have to be done for the performance to happen.” But then he added emphatically, “The music part is great.” As to my question as to what made zydeco special, he concluded: “Things haven’t been easy. I come from a poor family; it was a hard life growing up. The music is the only way I can express happiness, express myself in a happy way. That’s why I chose the zydeco.”

Like the sound of that? Then check our exclusive live footage of the show:

Text, photos and videos by Catalina Maria Johnson (Chicago, Illinois)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bouncing Cats: Film documents breakdancing as salvation in troubled Uganda

Bouncing Cats is a documentary film dedicated to the proposition that dance is a form of therapy.  The film has been screening in American cities this year, and has been very well received.  No surprise.  This is a powerful contemporary statement on the positive power of hip hop culture in Africa.  (Click here for trailer and screening info.)

Bouncing Cats focuses on a self-made activist, Abraham “Abramz” Tekya, a Ugandan b-boy and A.I.D.S. orphan who created an organization called Breakdance Project Uganda (B.P.U.).  Abramz grew up loving hip hop, especially break dancing.  He uses it to empower and uplift urban youth in Kampala, to give them a sense of hope and meaning in their lives.  The program is understandably popular and effective in Uganda's urban ghettos.  Seeing young Africans spinning and freezing makes that case in just a few frames.  The film's title comes from a rhythmic chant used to create a lo-fi beat  track for dancers who lack sound systems: "Bouncing cats, baboons and cats," over and over, with "baboon" sounding like a double bass drum hit. 

In Bouncing Cats, Abramz invites one of his American heroes, Crazy Legs, a founding member of the Rock Steady Crew, to visit Uganda and teach b-boy classes.  The American dancer relates to the idea immediately.  After all, break dancing originated as an alternative to urban gang violence in American cities.  Abramz's African vision seems a natural extension of that idea in a country emerging from a long history of brutality and poverty. 

One of the commentators in the film, Somali hip hop artist K'Naan, raps in the soundtrack, "I'll take rappers on a field trip any day."  The line comes from "This is Africa," a trademark K'Naan taunt to North American rappers that essentially says:  If you think the urban North American experience was rough, check out urban Africa.   Crazy Legs is indeed humbled and awed by what he finds in Uganda, the extremities of deprivation, need, the harsh demands of childhood, and in the north, violence and cruelty.  He is also humbled by the power of indigenous Ugandan dance, and amused to share the insight that in traditional African dance and break dancing, the essential activity is the same:  courtship, or as Crazy Legs puts it, "to impress girls." 

Y Not and Crazy Legs teaching in Uganda
This film does not shy away from harsh realities.  It shows the power of artistic outreach, but also its limitations.  K'Naan notes that teaching disadvantaged or abused kids to break dance is "not a practical solution, but it is what leads to practical solutions."  The kids are indeed empowered and uplifted by dance, as Abramz claims.  But their problems remain.  We feel not so much that they have been rescued, but that at least they've been given a glimpse of what rescue might look like, and shown that they can and must be the rescuers.

In Bouncing Cats, the action starts in Kampala, but cuts deepest when it moves to Uganda's troubled north.  Over a 20-year span, an estimated 30,000 children have been abducted into Joseph Koni's medievally cruel and nihilistic Lord's Resistance Army, which wreaked mayhem in the Ugandan north until it was forced across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the mayhem now continues. The story within a story in this film is the journey of Abramz and his American visitors make to a part of Uganda most southerners still don't dare to venture.  Torture, mutilation, killing as a ritual of childhood initiation, child rape and marriage.... the list of LRA atrocities is mind-numbing.   These things are hard to hear about, and hard to watch.  And disturbing images linger in the mind, even beyond the film's essentially positive message.  But the sense of uplift this film achieves is genuine, not a fantasy at all.  It is absolutely inspiring to see the tormented body of LRA victim, John Ochola, grown but hobbled, struggling to move his body in a way that is free and beautiful.  The soundtrack to this scene is K'Naan's "Waving Flag," one of the signature songs of the 2010 World Cup.  It hits the spot.

Abramz teaches John Ochola

Bouncing Cats is an important, timely film.  It's a story about young Africans and Americans relating to one another in a way that is real and genuinely meaningful.  It's a story about Africans helping Africans and finding hope in the face of daunting circumstances.  It's a story about social evolution.  Abramz talks about learning computer skills through the sweat of the b-boys, and after watching Bouncing Cats, you believe such things are possible.  Anyone who thinks hip hop is about gangsterism, bling, and misogyny, needs to see this film.  The upside of hip hop culture has never been demonstrated more persuasively.

On the musical side, Bouncing Cats makes effective use of K'Naan's songs, and incidental music by Amadou & Mariam with Manu Chao, The Very Best and others.  The music becomes more African as the film goes on, which is appropriate.  Visit the Bouncing Cats site for more info, and additional screening announcements at

Banning Eyre

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Podcast: Spotlight on Aurelio!

The full 20-minute Aurelio segment of this week's program, "Aurelio, Badian, Damily, and the Kid from Timbutktu," is available as a podcast.  It features two of the gorgeous solo songs he sang for us following Banning's interview with him. Stream it below or subscribe to our podcast here!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

El Tanbura continues the celebration in Tahrir Square

K.N. (now pleased to be "out of the closet" as Kristina Nelson) reports that the music plays on in Tahrir Square.  Mohamed Mounir performed last night, (while pop star Amr Diab fled to Dubai early in the protests.  Likely not a wise career move.)  Here's a video link of an amazing roots group El Tanbura of Port Said, performing in in the square earlier in this drama

Afropop fell in love with El Tanbura when we met them at the WOMEX festival in 2006.  We look forward to attending their regular gig in Port Said when we visit Cairo next summer.

El Tanbura, at WOMEX 2006
El Tanbura at WOMEX 2006
Kristina also sent this statement from the El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music about the present situation:

"We are at the beginning of a new day in the history of Egypt in which every Egyptian can now claim justice, respect, not on the bases of wealth or power, but on their membership in the human community. This new day offers unprecedented opportunities for free expression, innovation and experimentation and the role of creative expression as a model for social change can now be realized.

"In 2000, Zakaria Ibrahim established El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music. The Center builds on his own efforts of several decades to rescue the heritage of Egyptian folk music, bringing it back to its previous glory and recapturing the major role it had always played in the daily life of Egyptians. The Center also works to raise the status of the traditional musician whose music and creativity have been marginalized and compromised by state and tourism agendas.

"Historically, Egyptian folk music came from the people and reflected the every-day life of the Egyptians. It shared with those people their joy and pain, their victories and defeats and was always a mirror of all the major happenings in Egypt. Today El Mastaba follows this same road as it works on renewing the national memory and emphasizing the idea of belonging and works to recapture the roots of the Egyptian character, all of which come to life through the folk music.

"For these reasons, El Mastaba played an active role in the Egyptian Revolution, bringing the groups under its umbrella to Tahrir Square to share their music in five evening concerts on the stages built in the square. The three bands that participated in the concerts were all chosen from the Suez Canal area, as their music has always been a symbol for peoples’ resistance. El Mastaba presented the ‘Hinna’ band from Suez, ‘El Waziry’ band from Ismailia and the famous ‘El Tanboura’ from Port Said.

"And now, to continue our celebrations of the new era in our country, El Tanboura will resume its Thursday performances in El Tanboura Hall, starting this week on the 17th of February at 8.30 p.m.

"We also propose that all civil organizations working in art and culture meet and start a dialogue on the new opportunities open to cultural work under the new realities of freedom of speech. As organizations and individuals working in the field of culture, we should now work together for a new future for our country, one that we create ourselves and  that is not imposed on us.

"We invite you to join us as we celebrate this new beginning and continue this journey together."

More protest songs from Egypt

Due to the happenings in Tahrir Square, there have been more and more creative musical responses appearing on YouTube. In one song titled “Sout Al Horeya (the sound of freedom)”, by Amir Eid featuring Hany Adel, guitarist Hawary and Sherif Mostafa on keyboards, the lyrics are a call for freedom. "We will re-write history, if you are one of us, join us and don't stop us from fulfilling our dream" they sing.

Moved by the Egyptian uprising, Arab-American and African-American musicians living in different parts of North America teamed up to release “#25”, named after a trending topic on Twitter and referring to the date the protests officially began. The hip hop song is produced by Sami Matar, a Palestinian-American composer from Southern California, who called out to five vocalists: Freeway, The Narcicyst, Omar Offendum, HBO Def Poet Amir Sulaiman, and Canadian R&B artist Ayah. Their ambition was to create “a testament to the revolution’s effect on the hearts and minds of today's youth, and the spirit of resistance it has come to symbolize for oppressed people worldwide”.

Keep exploring the music coming from the Egyptian protests here in our blog:

Protests in Cairo keep growing, now with soundtrack
Music in Tahrir Square

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A lyrical peek into Madagascar

On the list of animated short films competing for the 83rd Academy Awards, “Madagascar, a Journey Diary” (Carnet de Voyage) takes you on a surreal aesthetic trip to the famous African island. In a little over 11 minutes, an european traveler braves new territory and records everything into his diary. As pages turn, his colorful drawings come alive with an exciting soundtrack recorded by local musicians. Beyond the majestic landscapes of Madagascar, the audience learns about the Fadihama traditions.

This is the first Academy Award nomination for french director Bastien Dubois. Upon making the short, he used different animation techniques that add a lot to the experience. So if you're in the NYC area, be smart and check out the Independent Film Center (IFC) showcase of the five animated short films nominated for this year’s Academy Awards, plus two additional films named to the Academy’s shortlist. Click here to see the showtimes.


More on "Madagascar, a Journey Diary":

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Grammy wins: Toumani+Ali, Bela Fleck+Africa, Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Word just in from the Grammys in LA about Ali (Farka Toure) and Toumani (Diabate) "Ali and Toumani"  is the winner this year in the traditional World Music category, edging out Bassekou Kouyate's "I Speak Fula." Bela Fleck's "Throw Down Your Heart--Africa Sessions, pt.2"wins  in contemporary WM, just as Vol 1 did, again with a lot of Mali music in the mix  The Mali wave continues!  Spanish Harlem Orchestra's "Viva La Tradicion" and Austin's Fantasma also get the nod.  Congrats to all winners.  More to come...

Egypt's new beginning

In the midst of Friday's (2/11) amazing events in Cairo, K.N. sent these words:

"I am sooo proud! Last night we were depressed after waiting hours for
a speech by Mubarak (recommended Oscar for best suspense film!) in
which we expected to hear him say he would leave. All the signs were
put out for us-the High Command of the Armed Forces met without him or
the VP, the army told the people in Tahrir, " all you ask for will be
given". "you mean he's leaving?" "All you ask for will be given".
Finally he spoke and it was like being stepped on. I think the govt.
tried to bring up people's expectations so they couold then dash them
so they would then go on a rampage of rage. We were enraged, people
stuck their shoes on sticks and waved them in the air. But there was
no violence, nobody trashed anything. It was so inspiring to see how
aware of the situation they were. We went to Tahrir this  morning
totally down and confused. An hour before the last words, we went up
to Pierre's balcony, ocerlookng the square and heard there was to be
another speech "soon". We didn't expect anything. And then it came,
just a few words and everyone exploded! The proudest moment in my
life! A real revolution that succeeded with persistence and peace. YAY

....and this photograph:

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Neo-Cumbia podcast now available for stream and download!

Hey all, chucu-chucu-check out this week's extended podcast on contemporary electronic and experimental cumbia fusions happening both in and outside of Colombia!

NOW WITH 300% MORE CUMBIA! (It's 45 whole minutes long, folks)

You can subscribe to our podcast here, which we highly recommend, since this is only our second extended podcast and there are plenty more in the works.

Or, if you would like to stream the podcast from the comfort of your very own currently open browser window, hit the Play button on our SoundCloud widget below:

Podcast: Neo-Cumbia Sounds from Colombia by Afropop Worldwide

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Music in Tahrir Square

K.N. writes from Cairo that Cultural Resources (Al Mawred al Thaqafi) has put up a stage in the square with a good sound system, so now there's music in the mix.   Two groups, Black Tema and El Tanbura from Port Said, performed.  Some people, of course, are not so happy about having music and dance as part of the protest.  We'll keep an eye on that.

Tamer Hosny, in trouble with fans
Also interesting, the young pop star Tamer Hosny (said by some to be a younger version of superstar Amr Diab) got himself in serious trouble with his public.  Egyptian TV had apparently encouraged singers to go to the square and tell folks that they had done enough.  Everybody loved the protesters, but time to give it a break.  Tamer apparently bit.  He went to the square and said these things, and earned the wrath of fans.   He was later seen, weeping, on television, saying he'd been "tricked."

K.N. also reports the latest joke: Mubarak dies and meets Nasser and Sadat who ask him how he comes to be there: "Was it poison (reference to rumors that Nasser was poisoned) or assassination?" "Neither, it was Facebook."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Protests in Cairo keep growing, now with soundtrack

Today, K.N. writes from Cairo, "Yesterday was depressing--met too many people who want life to get back to 'normal.'  Worried we were losing momentum. And then today...more and more people, never heard such a roar of voices. As you can see, all ages came, people in wheelchairs, babies and young children in strollers and on their fathers' shoulders. We were distributing water bottles and a young girl wanted to give Sayed money because, 'I want to do something. I want to participate.'   First aid clinics, people passing out small rolls of bread: 'Kentucky! Kentucky! Others with eggs, bread, Someone selling telephone cards, though trying to hear something is pretty impossible and the network goes in and out down there. We left around 6 pm and still people were coming into the square as it got dark.'

News reports have talked about music being played at Tahrir Square.  K.N. says she knows of no high-profile musicians to take the stage there, but some are busy in the studio and on the web.  Mohamed Mounir has posted a YouTube video of a song called "Ezay."  Its sentiments are clear.  And Hany Adel has provided music for a tribute to the martyrs of the revolution, a collection of disturbing and reassuring images with the message, "Revolution Will Continue."  And it will.

Here are more new images from K.N..


I am a free Egyptian because I don't turn around to pick up what has fallen from my eyes.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Changing of the Afropop Guard

After three fantastic years at Afropop Worldwide, I have accepted a new opportunity at Scholastic Media's Interactive Products Department. I can't even begin to wrap my head around the unbelievable amount of musical experiences I leave behind at Afropop. I feel proud of the website advances I oversaw in my time--from our move to a dedicated server all the way to's recent homepage redevelopment. It's also been fulfilling to see Afropop expand into new social media realms (including this blog). Most of all, I leave with a sense that I will never in my life work with a group as dedicated to musical discovery and enjoyment as the Afropop Worldwide team lead by Sean Barlow and Banning Eyre.

Saxon Baird in the Afropop Office

Saxon Baird will be taking over for me after I leave on February 14th. He's been with us since September, and was most recently made a part-time Operations Manager in mid-January. Under his watch, all of our social media offerings have gained a consistent voice and high level of quality. He's mastered our idiosyncratic website back-end. And, if any of you have come to enjoy Afropop via Facebook, you can thank Saxon! Most of all, he understands our mission and our audience, and is sincerely committed to both.

I'll be very excited to see what Saxon and Afropop does next, as I transition from behind-the-scenes to an eager audience member.

--Matt Payne
Outgoing Senior Producer, New Media & Managing Editor,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Aster Aweke Awakens NYC's Ethiopian Soul

The Queen of Ethiopian Soul still has it!  It's been ten years since the great Aster Aweke graced a New York stage. So one had to wonder. Could her voice still explode in a heartbeat from shimmering, Amharic lyricism into full-on R&B belting? Could she still kick out deeply funky, deeply Ethiopian grooves capable of transforming a dancefloor into a sea of shimmying shoulders? Could she still pack a New York club with Ethiopians for a wee-hours set, and get her fans singing a ballad with the force of a beloved national anthem? Based on Aster's showing at SOB's last Friday (Feb 4), the answer to all these questions is an unequivocal yes. This is, quite simply, ecstatic music, loaded with pent-up spirituality and passion, but somehow light, ebullient, sweet and highly social.  And nobody puts all that across any better than Aster Aweke.

Aster Aweke at SOBs (Eyre, 2011)
We are 20 years beyond the time when Aster had CDs on the mainstream world music market, and made regular appearances around the country from her base in Washington, DC.  (Afropop has fond memories of our program's beginnings in the late '80s, when we produced out of DC's Ethiopia-rich Adams Morgan neighborhood, not far from a restaurant where Aster was a regular performer.  In fact, Aster was one of Afropop's first on-air guests. )  More recently, Aster has returned to Ethiopia and established a new kind of stardom there.  The presence of such an outsize talent in the US was always driven by conditions at home.  Under the oppression of the Mengistu regime, which began bloodily in 1975, Aster was not free to pursue her vision of fusing ancestral traditions with international sounds--especially soul, funk, and R&B.  Aster faced indignities from those who considered such a calling decadent, immoral, whatever...  Time to leave and go to a place where contemporary art is respected.  But once Mengistu's dreary regime fell in 1991, a long process of social, political, and cultural recovery began, and Aster decided to return to Addis and become a part of that national reinvention.

Of course, Aster is not alone in making this choice.  Maestro and producer Abegasu Shiota is another major player in modern Ethiopian music who made the move from DC back to Addis to establish himself as one of the country's top producers.  Abegasu worked with Aster on here latest CD Checheho (Kabu Records).  We picked up a copy at the SOB's show and highly recommend it as a compensation for those who missed this historic concert.  The CD delivers a bracing dose of all the groove, subtlety, bluster, and spine-tingling joy one would hope for from this Afropop legend.  It is excellent.  Find it on iTunes, and watch this site for a full review. 

But back to the concert.  Aster was backed by a small band, the obligatory saxophone and keyboard creating the melodic and harmonic accompaniment--no guitar, other horns or traditional Ethiopian instruments.  One could have hoped for a fuller band, but this outfit was certainly solid, and kept the focus very much on Aster with her playful moves, and titanic voice.  The show drew an almost entirely Ethiopian audience, many of them too young to have attended Aster's 1990's concerts.  Despite good PR, there weren't many non-Ethiopians in the mix, perhaps because the music didn't start until almost 1AM.  Aster's first set ended sometime after 2, and there was more to come when Sean Barlow and I turned in.  This is how it goes with the best Ethiopian concerts.  To get a sonic and spiritual jolt of this intensity, you've got to be willing to sacrifice a night's sleep.  This crowd was more than happy to do it.  They sang along, danced, waved their arms high, and shouted out in ecstasy early and often.   This was a collective experience of authentic East African ambiance rare in New York City.  Here are some more images from this long overdue show.  Let's hope Aster is back soon and often.  She's a giant of her country's august musical heritage, and she's been too long absent from American stages.

Banning Eyre