Zongo Junction is generating a well-deserved buzz in NYC’s burgeoning afrobeat scene. The ensemble blends West African rhythms with funk, jazz and soul. True to their inspiration, Nigerian superstar, political activist and afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti, the outfit excites dance floors wherever they perform.
The critics agree. “The only thing Zongo Junction has to do to start a legitimate dance party is show up and plug in…anyone within a square block earshot of this Ford-tough funk factory would be hard pressed not to join in the hoopla,” says the Bay Area’s SF Station. “Sheer energy, with a brawny horn section that played unison lines with the force of a tractor-trailer and a rhythm section that roared with power and noise.” Says the Village Voice.
The band, 12 pieces in total, has toured extensively throughout the East and West coats. Including a sold out show at Slim’s in San Francisco on December 30, 2010, a Monday night residency at Brooklyn Bowl in June 2011 and a recent tour supporting Asheville, NC heavyweights, Toubab Krewe.
The band released their debut album Thieves! on December 30, 2010. As afrobeat music has always done, the album speaks truth-to-power with humor and soul. The album’s five original songs feature long-time Fela Kuti band member, Leon Kaleta Ligan-Majek, on vocals.
Members of the band have performed or recorded with: TV on the Radio, Easy Star All Stars, The Walkmen, and many more.
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Sierra and the Nomads
In the summer of 2010, a trip across the country on a Bluebird school bus bound for Burning Man Festival in NV united two cosmic souls: Sierra Carrère and guitarist Jack Star. Accompanied by the rhythmic frenzy of Jack Star’s guitar, the Amazon Queen’s melodic magnificence and uncanny command of rhyme left many a-listener spellbound amidst the Burning Man sands.
When the duo returned to the metropolis of New York, Jack’s big brother, bassist Lennon was then called upon to infuse their sounds with his rumbling, funky bass notes and soon thereafter Lucas Leto the Drummer came forth injecting his infectious beats into the musical groove. Finally, Keyboardist Walker Fee painted his way onto the scene, rounding out the Nomad sound. You will often see them performing with various talented live percussionists.
Modern Soul with a Global groove is how some may describe their music, and when you see them live you will definitely hear an array of styles. Sierra, a six foot tall Amazon moves with the grace of a dancer, sharing her stories and life through notes sung in English and French. From Gypsy to funk, hiphop to rock, reggae to blues- they cover many bases with Sierra's earthy and soulful voice being the constant thread weaving through it all, solidifying their unique sound.
The result of this coalition is a universal groove of powerful energy that will take each listener on a musical ride across the map… with Sierra and the Nomads.
Kwame and the Uptown Shakedown
As diverse and kinetic as the city they call home, Kwame & the Uptown Shakedown have been perfecting their unique blend of soulful rock n’roll since they formed in 2008. A true product of New York City, their music reflects the passion, the energy and the sounds of the city. They stand out - as a multicultural, multigenerational collective whose influences span soul, blues, classic rock, reggae and R+B. Featuring singer/songwriter Kwame Binea, guitarist/songwriter Justin Wilcox, bassist Art Vanterpool, drummer Medley, and saxophonist Quigley , the group is united by a common goal to make simple, soulful, back-to-basics music. “Our music is organic,” says London-born Ghanaian-raised Kwame, “it’s about life, love and struggle but it’s danceable. We make music that moves you and that makes you move.” After leaving blues/rock band ‘The Kause’, Kwame met songwriting partner Justin Wilcox at a recording session in Union City, NJ and the duo moved to Harlem to begin writing and playing together. Initially an acoustic act, the band’s line-up grew naturally as Kwame and Justin met and played with other New York/NJ musicians. As the group got bigger – both literally and sonically - their music began making the walls of the apartment where they rehearsed rattle and so the Uptown Shakedown was born. The band has quickly built a following as diverse as its members. Having played regularly at a number of iconic venues including Sullivan Hall, Kenny’s Castaway and Arlene’s Grocery, the band started playing shows across the East Coast this year as they complete work on their debut LP. Lead single ‘Waiting’ was released earlier this year and has been garnering the band a lot of attention. “I’ve been patient, I’ve been focused, I’ve been waiting for my time to come,” sings Kwame on the track. It seems their time has now arrived.