Each season has its symbols and emblems. Fall is filled with Halloween pumpkins, Winter is a wonderland of holiday tidings, in Spring time it's hearts and Easter eggs and Summer has the red, white & blue stars and stripes on picnic fare across the nation. With the official start of Summer this week (June 21), we welcome the ultimate mark of the season-the Summer live music scene. These outdoor events are a cultural institution. The historic Woodstock Festival, for instance, was first held in the summer of 1969, at a dairy farm in Bethel, New York where an audience of over 500,000 heard music from legends such as Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix.
Almost four decades later, green space, sun and live music still spell a good time for most. No where is this more evident than in New York City, where all the parks brim with musical activity. Over the years, more and more African artists have been featured in these events. Like this year's Central Park SummerStage- organized by the New York City Parks Foundation to showcase readings, music and dance performances- which includes an entire night dedicated to the music and culture of Sudan.
Across North America, African musicians are touring and performing in concerts and they include household names such as Angelique Kidjo as well as newer artists in the game. Afropop Editor Sean Barlow writes about the phenomenon in The Africa Journal, noting the importance of musicians touring as their concerts in these mid- to large-sized cities foster foreign ties and gain foreign exchange for their countries.
With calls for Africa to be re-branded, these artists are a first step toward that goal. All of the artists bring messages tinged with calls for change and the need to end war, corruption and poverty in Africa.
Some have taken music of the West and blended in traditional flavors while some are all African and want to show what Africa is made of. This summer, an entertaining and at the very least, eye-opening time is sure to be had by all.
Here are some of Africa's best who will be touring and performing in North America:Angelique Kidjo:
This summer will be quite hectic for four-time Grammy nominated, Benin-born Angelique Kidjo. She first hit the world music scene after moving to Paris in 1982. Since then she has worked with music greats from the Dave Matthews Band to Carlos Santana. Her newest album Djin Djin features collaborations with Alicia Keys, Josh Groban and Peter Gabriel. Tour dates.
Cesaria Evora is synonymous with Cape Verdean music. Even though she didn't quite gain recognition till well in her forties, she has since released ten albums, garnered a Grammy nomination and sold out concerts all over the world. Tour dates.Femi Kuti:
Living up to the legendary status of his father was initially a challenge, but as the oldest son of Fela Kuti, Femi Kuti has managed to carry on the afrobeat mantle. He dishes out complaints on corruption and the state of Nigeria, which landed his father on the wrong side of the Nigerian government. Tour dates.
Gokh Bi System:
The Senegalese trio, Mamadou Ndiaye, Diasse Pouye, and Pape Bathie Pouye grew up in Pikine, one of the poorer parts of Dakar. Their first influences were Chuck D, KRS-one and other rap musicians of the 1980s. They describe their music as "Ancient Meets Urban"- demonstrated best by their infusion of the ekoting, an almost extinct version of the banjo, into their mix of Arabic, French, Jola, Wolof and Serer hip hop beats. Tour dates.Hassan Hakmoun:
From Morocco's Gnawa tribe, Hassan Hakmoun started performing at an early age alongside snake charmers and firebreathers in Marrakesh. His mother was a well-known mystic healer, whose influence in Hakmoun's music is unmistakable. In 1994 he was the only world musician who performed at Woodstock. Tour dates.Hugh Masekela:
Hugh Masekela was introduced to the trumpet by anti-apartheid activist Father Trevor Huddleston. After performing and touring in the jazz scene in South Africa he became disillusioned with apartheid and left for New York in 1961. He has sojourned in many African countries and now lives in South Africa. Tour dates.JaNuba:
JaNuba made up her name from the Arabic word janub which means "south." Born in Malaka, in southern Sudan, she now lives in Canada. With songs such as Mama Africa and Peace, JaNuba's music expresses love and a plea to end war. Tour dates.K'Naan:
"...my experiences have always been at the forefront of my music, Mogadishu-born K'Naan's Myspace page reveals. When his manager and friend Sol Guy ended up spending a night in jail in Sweden for a misunderstanding after a performance, it was not long before a video of that night appeared on his page. K'Naan has enthralled audiences over with his lyricism, as well as his calls for social justice. His first album is titled the Dusty Foot Philosopher. Tour dates.Ladysmith Black Mambazo:
Grammy Award winners, Ladysmith Black Mambazo are cultural emissaries of South Africa. Their signature isicathamiya music- music of the South African mines- has led to over 40 albums, collaborations with other musical giants and the chance to accompany Nelson Mandela to the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo, Norway. Tour dates.Les Nubians:
Born to a Cameroonian mother and a French father, sisters Helene and Celia first formed Les Nubians as an a capella group performing R&B, African and Reggae pieces. A remake of Sade's "Sweetest Taboo" put them in the international spotlight and they've since collaborated with Talib Kweli, Zap Mama, and worked on Red, Hot & Riot, a tribute to Fela Kuti. Tour dates.Lura:
Cape Verdean Lura was born in Lisbon, home to many Cape Verdeans. Trained as a dancer, she was invited to back-up sing for Juka, a zouk singer from Sao Tome and Principe, when she was 17. After discovering her musical abilities, she went on to produce cocktails of R&B and Zouk, and in 2004, produced an album with a truly Cape Verdean identity. Tour dates. Mahotella Queens:
Hilda Tloubatla, Mildred Mangxola, and Nobesuthu Mbadu are the three members of the South African group Mahotella Queens. They began backing Mahlathini whose signature was his deep groan. Their mbaqanga music blends traditional Zulu rhythms, gospel and soul. Tour dates.Mamadou DiabatÃƒÂ©:
Toting his kora, an instrument made of calabash and a cross between guitar and lute, Mamadou DiabatÃƒÂ©'s aim is to introduce the traditional sound of the Mandinga people into mainstream jazz. Currently based in New York City, he performs concerts and tours all over North America. He was awarded "World Music Artist of the Year" from the American Folk Alliance earlier this year. Tour dates. Refugee All Stars:
Music brought together these Sierra Leoneans living in the Sembakounya refugee camp in Guinea. They had all been living in Freetown until rebel forces invaded in 1999. After being filmed for four years for a documentary, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars- the band gained international recognition. Their music spreads messages to end war, and has been cathartic in their own healing processes. Tour dates.Richard Bona:
Growing up in a musical household in Cameroon, Richard Bona was destined for greatness in music. At age five he was already performing in public and sang in the village church with his sisters and mother. He's come a long way from improvising guitar strings with bicycle brake cables to one touted as "one of the best bassists on the planet." Tour dates.Seun Kuti:
Seun Kuti performs with his father's old band Egypt 80. The youngest son of Fela Kuti, his appearance is reminiscent of his late father's. He also touches on issues of modern Nigeria and Africa -- injustice, corruption -- which in the 1970s and the 1980s landed Fela in jail. Tour dates.Tiken Jah Fakoly:
With comparisons drawn to Bob Marley, Cote d'Ivoire's Tiken Jah Fakoly minces no words on the political and economic situation of his country. His album"Coupe de Gueule", which means "outburst," has been dubbed an exile's album, and blends reggae with traditional Ivorian sounds on tracks such as 'DÃƒÂ©mÃƒÂ©.' Tour dates.Toumani DiabatÃƒÂ©:
The son of Mali's "king of kora," Toumani DiabatÃƒÂ© has kept his late father's legacy on. He's toured countries all over the world and has collaborated with musicians from all breadths of music, including a classical harpist. Tour dates.Tcheka:
The Batuque beat is unique to Santiago in Cape Verde, and Tcheka fuses this style with jazz and 'afro' beats, to produce sounds that were once confined to women of the island. Tcheka's first album is titled 'Argui'- which means rise in Creole. Tour dates.Vieux Farka Toure:
The son of Ali Farka Toure, Vieux Farka Toure showed musical promise from an early age. His father, jaded by the music industry forbade Vieux from following music. Vieux followed his heart and studied music at the National Arts Institute where he was discovered by Toumani DiabatÃƒÂ©. DiabatÃƒÂ© later reconciled father and son. Ali Farka Toure recorded his final tracks on Vieux's album. Tour dates.Wanlov the Kubolor:
Kubolor ,"bush person" or "wanderer," is a word of the Ga of Ghana's coast. Wanlov has created his own brand of music- kubolor music, which fuses hip hop with Ghanaian hiplife and West African beats. Born in Romania, he grew up in Ghana, and has performed in many universities, clubs and theatres in the United States. Tour dates.ZapMama:
Zap Mama, led by Zaire-born, Belgium-raised Marie Daulne, has captured its fans since the 1990s with its eclectic sounds. A mÃƒÂ©lange of African and soulful pieces, Zap Mama's music has reached two Billboard #1 positions, as well as a Grammy nomination and use in several films. Tour dates.