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Mural at Marrakech Cafe

Mural next to the patio at Marrakech

To say that Minneapolis have been sun-starved this week, much less the entire winter would be an understatement. So after work with the weather still warm, it was the perfect evening to search for new food adventure.

Central Avenue in Northeast Minneapolis has really come alive with several new ethnic restaurants over the past few months. The one that caught my attention looking to bask in the rays of the setting sun was the Marrakech Moroccan Café and Grill.

It’s a little café nestled back off of Central Avenue south of 19th Avenue Northeast.  According to their owner Redouane, they have been open for seven months, and with an outdoor patio he’s hoping more people will visit. At the time of their opening, Marrakech was the only restaurant in town serving solely Moroccan food. Having spent a year in Holland and eating more than my fair share of family-prepared couscous and tagine dishes, I was really looking forward to dinner on the patio.

Looking on their menu, it took me literally two seconds to decide my dinner – harira soup, lemon chicken tagine, and of course mint tea. Redouane quickly served up the mint tea and harira soup, and with the sun setting it was perfect. Harira is a very aromatic tomato and lentil soup with a slightly building heat from pepper and many other herbs. It had a great texture from the lentils that reminded me of mulligatawny. The mint tea was the perfect contrast, and really unlike any mint tea I have ever tried.

Lemon Chicken Tagine at the Marrakech Cafe

About the time I was finishing the soup, they brought out the lemon chicken tagine. It was like a family roast with two large pieces of chicken surrounded by potatoes and topped with green olives. The smell of the dish with turmeric, cumin, and paprika really transported me back to all of the dinners I had shared with Moroccan families overseas. The chicken was extraordinarily tender as I pulled the meat from the bone with my fork. It was really a perfect meal for a cool, sunny spring evening.

Over a quarter century ago New York gave the world Hip Hop. During that time the music, expression, and beats have evolved impacting and planting lyrical seeds in kids from every nation. Look out, especially to Africa, and you’ll see a hip hop movement fully grown.

K’Naan is one of those artists from the Hip Hop generation. Growing up on the dusty streets of Mogadishu, Somalia, even from an early age he was listening and dropping verses from Nas and Rakim. His is an authentic voice forged by civil war and refugee experiences and strongly influenced by Somali culture and family history.

K’Naan’s music excites me because it offers a different vision beyond himself; it’s socially aware and uniting people under tight beats while raising awareness for those without voices. Very few artists can do this, but K’Naan speaks to me like Jurassic 5, Guru, or even Rage.

He takes Hip Hop and presses the bounds mixing English and Somali; he’s a poet in any language. Catch K’Naan on closing night of the Pan African Festival at the First Ave Main Room.

Monday, August 11
First Avenue Main Room
7 PM (Doors open)
18+ show
$16 advance; $20 at the door
Ticket Info: 612-338-8388 or Ticketmaster

K’Naan – Soobax


K’Naan – Hardcore

As I said yesterday, one of my friends, Will McClain, posted his thoughts on the Prince Family Reunion at How Wast The Show, and I think it speaks very well about the night.

“The stars had aligned: the eve of Prince’s 50th birthday, a modest Minneapolis stage, a roster thick with old friends and family, a Prince pseudonym (Jamie Starr) on the bill—how could it not add up to an appearance by the diminutive star?”

“With tickets under $20, the bill was an impressive who’s who of Prince hired guns, a vivified wax museum of Twin Cities music history. From pioneer Revolution guitarist Dez Dickerson to sax man Eric Leeds and quirky keyboardist Dr. Matt Fink, the stage heaved with the souls who’d rocked us from beneath his purple shadow. From note one, the Prince alum seemed to be having the time of their lives.”

…and the thoughts that I think summed up the experience perfectly:

“The purple veterans looked 20 years younger as they ended a brief encore with the bubbly “She’s Always in My Hair,” and bounced off stage to passionate applause. Still, the night had come and gone without an appearance by Minneapolis’ prodigal son.

And it was just as well.

Indeed, a Prince cameo would have seemed out of place, almost unfair, on a night when the musicians who had once helped shape a scene had their well-deserved moment in the spotlight.”

This night was enough to drive me to check out the other places where Prince’s people play from Bunkers (Dr. Mambo’s Combo) to the Artists’ Quarters (Tuesday Night Band  with “Downtown” Bill Brown (Hammond B-3), Billy Franze (guitar).

I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for Prince, and this last Friday at the Cabooze that spot grew substantially. Several members from the Revolution and New Power Generation (NPG) among others hit the stage for a several hour Prince Family Reunion concert.

For a good review of the concert and playlist, go to Prince.org. The band played two amazing sets, and members were very accessible to fans. I think we spoke with Dr. Matt Fink for nearly five minutes about a possible playing in Minneapolis and a possible Madhouse reunion.

Although these images aren’t the greatest, I wanted to share some photos I had from the night. I went with a friend who will hopefully have more images and thoughts to share in the coming days.

Prince Family Reunion 002

Chicago Afrobeat ProjectAfrobeat music does not stand still. Like their funky African forefathers, the Chicago Afrobeat Project (CAbP) will keep the crowds moving.

The band mixes polyrhythmic, infectious grooves with political awareness and even hints of hip hop with their horns. The group will be strutting their stuff at the Cedar Cultural Center on Friday, October 5th at 8:00 pm in Minneapolis.

At each performance, the percussion and sharp horn lines of CAbP stir up energetic momentum, sweeping listeners directly to the dance floor time and time again. They’ll also be celebrating the release of their new album (A) Move to Silent Unrest. Tickets are $12 in advanced and $15 the day of the show.

You can check out their sounds at MySpace or from their extensive collection of audio files listed at their website.

Listen to Free CAbP MP3s

Chicago Afrobeat Project

Zambi – An alternate album mix with uncensored vocals from Poetree Chicago.
West Ganji – From the band’s Nov. 12th, 2005 CD Release Party at Martyrs Live in Chicago.

Dhafer Youssef“The kind of gig you watched and prayed would never end, charged with such magic that you knew you would be telling people about it in years to come.”

—Straight No Chaser

Tunisian-born singer and oud player, Dhafer Youssef, will be making his Minnesota debut and kicking off the Walker Art Center‘s New World Jazz Series on Thursday, September 27th at 8:00 pm.

Dhafer Youssef’s hypnotic, Sufi-inspired music connects the ancient with the modern, the East with the West in an enticing coalescence of culture. Youssef draws on the evocative sound of his Islamic heritage, combining it with new directions in European jazz and “a voice that could stop wars” (Songlines) to create timeless atmospheres of sound.

Youssef will be joined in the Walker Art Center’s McGuire Theater by a very accomplished string quartet—Todd Reynolds, violin; Daisy Jopling, violin; Caleb Burhans, viola; Mark Helias, bass; and percussionist Satoshi Takeishi.

Dhafer Youssef tickets are $22 ($18 Walker members).


Dhafer Youssef Quartet performing at the ‘Jazz Onze Plus’ festival in Lausanne on October 28, 2006. The quartet performs the song ‘Odd Poetry’ from Dhafer’s 2006 Jazzland release ‘Divine Shadows’.

Eric S.B. - Bassist of Quilombolas“We like to mix it with different languages and different cultures, but everything is based in Mama Africa. Everything in America comes from Mama Africa.”

The message from bassist and lead vocalist of Eric S.B. of Quilombolas perfectly captured the mix the band achieved at the AfriFest Gala at the Cedar Culture Center along with four other bands. Below are photos from Quilombolas that Richard Ooga, a professional photographer with ePix Mobile Studios located in Lakeville and contributor to Mshale, was kind enough to provide me.

Papi U. - Drummer of Quilombolas Matt Levit (Levitt8) - Guitarist of Quilombolas Eric S.B. - Bassist of Quilombolas Percussionist for Quilombolas Percussionist for Quilombolas Quilombolas and Grooving Fans

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