Photo by William Farrington|Photo by William Farrington

African music, from the traditional to cutting edge is taking hold in New York as evidenced by the number of new venues embracing it. Below are listings from a few that have caught our attention.

Friday and Saturday, April 1 and 2 a new series, the Apollo Music Café presents Lorraine Klaasen and Malika Zarra. The series opens the stage at Harlem’s Apollo Theater to innovative artists and on this weekend North and South Africa meet in tribute to Miriam Makeba.

Lorraine Klaasen, Soweto born and raised, absorbed the music of the township in her home from the giants of the 50’s and 60’s including her mother Tandie Klaasen who unlike Makeba remained in South Africa throughout the struggle against apartheid. She followed in her mom’s footsteps, performing with her as a youth and has since brought the classic sounds of township music to audiences across the globe and along her journey absorbed the musical influences, jazz, R+B, soul and gospel that the Apollo is known for. Curator Sandra Bell tells Caribbean Life that for Malika, a vocalist of Moroccan origins, it is an opportunity to show love and respect for “Mama Africa” and she has suprises in store as she unveils new work from her upcoming CD.

April 16 at Zebulon in Williamsburg the pulsating vibrant sounds of the West Africa in the 1960’s and 70’s come to life in the hands of Frank Grossner.

The infrequent occasions, when the DJ brings out his collection of rare Afro Beat, Highlife and Afro Funk LPs, are not to be missed.

A wide swath of the music from this exciting period in African history has nearly been lost, except for the work of archivists like Grossner. He has spent years seeking and finding old recordings and LPs in the most unlikely places and together with the artists is reissuing previously unavailable music.

His record digging road trip adventures are chronicled on his critically acclaimed blog, together with more than 30 one-hour-long MP3 mixes and countless photographs and record cover scans.

Pan-African music has found an uptown home at the Farafina Cafe, 1813 Amsterdam Avenue at 150 St. in Manhattan. Alex Boicel brings his experience as an international concert promoter to his own venue presenting a wide range of music. Sets begin early and Farafina also offers a limited dinner menu.

On April 8, a night of Cape Verdean music, curated by Marcy Depina is on tap. The NYC CD release “Party for Chachi Carvalho” with special guests Afrika Rainbow, Swann Notty, Rize Above, & Romen Rok w/ Dee Jay Therion will bring Zouk, Kizomba, Kompa, Kuduro, and other rhythms that perculate from the musically rich West African islands.

Moving east to the Bronx, a late night venue, Club Capital, 590 E. 150 street is now open. On the corner of the Grand Concourse it is where Ivorians go on saturday and sunday nights to dance and hear the latest music and touring artists from back home.

It is a late night spot, there is no sign, you enter around the back at basement level. No matter how cold it is out, once inside you are in Abidjan. DJs Adi Bravo and Mello keep the latest rhytnms – Coupe Decale, Soukous M’dombolo pumping in the intimate space. Couches line the walls and laser beam lit dancers fill the floor after midnight.

On a recent night, Zouglou stars Yode and Siro were surrounded by fans who showered dollar bills on them as they sang. Upcoming gigs will feature Afro Zouk from Monique Seka, and Ismael Ansana, the hard-rocking son of Alpha Blondi.

Buka at 946 Fulton Street in Brooklyn is where Nigerians go for home cooking. They have also quietly been presenting music including Majek Fashek, I D Noble, Baba Olajagun and a post dinner hour DJ in the past couple months. They announce shows a few days before on their Facebook page.

Razia Said performimg at Joe’s Pub in Manhattan at the release party of “Zebu Nation,” her most recent recording.
Photos by William Farrington
Photo by William Farrington