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London African Music Festival (Preview)

Now in its 10th year, The London African Music Festival, which has been described as an “impressively eclectic affair” returns with a diverse line-up of musical talents from the continent and the diaspora. Set to take place across multiple venues in London, the 2012 festival is gearing up to be one for the history books. 2011 gave us Dobet Gnahore and Tiken Jah Fakoly (Ivory Coast), Sona Jobarteh (Guinea) Grupo Lokito (Congo/Cuba) and Diabel Cissokho (Senegal). 2012 is no different; with an electrifying pool of artists that includes: The Master Drummers ofAfrica, The Krar Collective, Carmen Souza and The Congo Allstars, London has never had it so good!!

Below are short snippets of the various artists that will set London on fire with contemporary and traditional African music. You are bound to get rid of a few pounds and your bones and muscles will be grateful when you are done dancing 🙂



Senegalese Diabel Cissokho’s musical pedigree is exceptional. International tours with his family’s band Bannaya led to a long stint as Baaba Maal’s kora player, tours with the likes of Kandia Kouyate, Pee Wee Ellis, Nuru Kane, Daby Balde, Omar Pene and Abdou Diop. Diabel’s virtuoso talent and according to Songlines, “resonant voice and rocking kora style” have been welcomed everywhere from WOMAD and Glastonbury to London’s Barbican. Diabel’s success with bluesman Ramon Goose cemented his reputation as a versatile musician, able to effortlessly cross cultures. Their album Mansana Blues was lauded as “a flavoursome mix of slide guitar, mellow kora and undulating Mandinka rhythms” (Roots) which “delivers moments of steamy pleasure.” Diabel’s new album Kanabory Siyama (WorldVillage) marks a return to his roots. Recorded in the UK and Dakar, and featuring members of his own family, the album draws on Diabel’s rich musical heritage, blending beautiful Mandinkan melodies with an upbeat West African groove.



The Master Drummers of Africa in full flow is one of the most thrilling and unforgettable spectacles in world music. Deep, mysterious, spiritual, celebratory and utterly compelling, the world’s greatest drum orchestra features 10 drummers from 10 African nations representing over 300 tribes of Africa. The Master Drummers of Africa draws  from 3000 years of tribal rhythms to create an ecstatic and freewheeling music straight from the heart of African culture in a spectacular and dynamic 3-hour stage show. Using over 100 ethnic drums the orchestra creates uplifting and infectious rhythms from a cradle of civilization that continues to influence every style of music, from jazz to salsa to funk providing a living proof that rhythms of the world have their roots in ancient Africa.



The Krar is an Ethiopian six stringed harp. It is the lead instrument of the mesmerizing Krar Collective led by Temesegen Tareken, a former star pupil of veteran Ethiopian vibraphone player Mulatu Astatke. Krar Collective funk up their Ethiopian roots in a spectacular way with the soaring voice of Genet Assefa and hypnotic rhythms of drummer Amare. This is modern root music that takes on traditional music from Ethiopiaas a starting point of global sounds from gentle ballads to high-energy dance tunes. The 6-stringed krar lyre is associated with the azmari minstrel tradition; in the hands of Zeleke it becomes a gritty and rock guitar. They create a surprisingly big sound, leading one critic to name them ‘The Ethiopian White Stripes’. The band is accompanied on stage by an amazing group of Ethiopian dancers adding colour and sheer exuberance to the show.



Lisbon born CapeVerdeansongstress Carmen Souza has it all: excellent repertoire, a nimble and versatile voice that glides effortlessly through a huge range of registers and a totally relaxed stage presence. Whether she is singing the plaintive morna (the CapeVerdeanvariation of the blues) or an exuberant batuco Souza is always convincing owing to her swing jazzy sense of timing and uncanny ability to bring several shades of nuance to even the highest and lowest notes she sings. After a stint in her teens singing professionally in a Lusophone Gospel Choir, and a period dabbling in musical genres as diverse as Funk, Soul, and Jazz, she finally found her own voice. Singing in her ancestors’ Creole language and mixing traditional African and Cape Verde rhythms like Batuku, Morna, Kola San Djon with contemporary jazz influences to create an unique sound all of her own. She features music from her three CDs Ess ê nha Cabo Verde (2005); Verdade (Truth) (2007) and Protegid (2010).



Gospel is the biggest music in Africa and one of the biggest choirs of them all is the  Yoruba Women Choir founded by singer Funmi Olawumi in 2006, and featuring 10 female soloists and a six piece band to present a show that is bursting with intense soulful passion. This is the music that inspires the mind and uplifts the soul. The choir have married the intricate rhythms and harmonies of their native Nigerian musical traditions to the sounds and sentiments of Christian gospel music. The result is a musical and spiritual alchemy that has touched a worldwide audience representing every corner of the religious, cultural and ethnic landscape. Soulful vocalist Bumi Thomas opens the show with her full band featuring guitarist Jon Speedy, bassist Matteo Grassi, drummer Juilian Weishaupt and keyboardist Paul Silver.



The Congo Allstars create undiluted Congolese rumba with its four singers, 1 rapper, two guitarists and a rock solid rhythm section. This is modern soukous driven by chiming guitar lines, anchored by deep bass lines and powered by the infectious rhythms of leader and legendary conga player Koko Kanyinda. The four singers lead from the front with afro-soul intensity that has made the Congo Allstars one of Africa’s greatest live bands.

The Congo Allstars features Koko Kanyinda (congas/vocals); Makuta Egene (vocals); Udo Luvunge (vocals); Emain Bongongo (vocals); Claudia Lukasa (vocals); Shamo Maracas (raps); Limozine Kabange (lead guitar); Ladi Mbala (rhythm guitar); Chocola Zasamba (bass guitar); Babwaku Biasonama (kit drum); Zola Kalonji (keyboards) and Stoni Loketo (dancer)



Tony Dudu, who was born in Bambadinca, Guinea Bissau, West-Africa, is one of the towering figures of ‘palop’ sound which comes from a fusion of West-African and South African rhythms and Jazz driven by Latin grooves. At the age of twelve Tony Dudu joined “Os Lacaraes”, Guinea-Bissau’s first infants’ musical band. Two years later he was invited to play with the famous group Africa Livre, where he met Manecas Costa and Justino Delgado. In 1988 while in Portugal Tony Dudu joined Os Issabary from Guinea Bissau. He also made a name for himself as an in demand session appearing on over 100 records with different artists from diverse parts of Africa like: Guinea Bissau, Angola, Mozambique, Sao Tome, Cape Verde and Brazil. He was lead guitar for Valdemar Bastos, Manecas Costa, Justino Delgado, Eneida Marta, Tabanka Djazz, Don Kikas, Bonga, Juca and many more. In 2007 he joined the Matimba’s band, from Zimbabwe, played with Moses Conde from Guinea Conakry, Africa Bauantu fromGhana, Kamba Semba from Angola, Zimbabwean saxophonist Paul Lunga. It was in 2009 that Tony formed his new band Gumbe Jazz and tonight the band will play special set to mark their festival debut. Expect frenetic dance grooves from all these funky people.



Rise Kagona is a true African music legend. Born in Malawi, Rise Kagona is the founder, lead guitarist and sole remaining member of Zimbabwean rock band Bhundu Boys. The Bhundu Boys were the ambassadors of African music and one of the first African groups to tour the world in the 1980s. Rise Kagona along with the original Bhundu Boys, mixed Zimbabwean styles with rhumba, influences from theCongoand labelled their fast paced music ‘Jit Jive’. This was a ground-breaking force in African music, paving the way for more artists to be successful in Europe and theUS. They enjoyed fantastic success – with international hits and stadium tours – and personal tragedy in equal measure. Their story is as compelling as their accomplishments are great and their music infectious unlike any other African groups.



Take a trip to the heart of Hackney to experienceAfrica’s finest live afrobeat session with pianist Dele Sosimi as he leads his powerful Afrobeat Orchestra with DJ Koichi dropping heavy weight Afrobeat, afro funk and tropical rhythms on the desk. Dele Sosimi is one of the brightest lights in Afrobeat and funk today. His pedigree is unquestionable: he cut his teeth as the keyboard player, musical director and instructor in Fela Kuti’sEgypt80. He continued with Fela’s son Femi in Positive Force, combining complex funk grooves, traditional Nigerian music, hi-life, African percussion and jazz.


For a full list of artists and venue details, go to: London African Music Festival 




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