“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 describes the AfriFest Gala concert experience with bands hailing from Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Puerto Rico – the rhythms and beat of the drum all called out to the original homeland of Mama Africa in an experience that had the audience grooving for five hours and wanting more.
With some of the band’s members hailing from Ethiopia, Wegegta means a sprinkle or a ray of light, according to bass guitarist, Jonathan Bekare. The bands sound fuses jazz, Afropop, and a fat sound from keyboardist, Samuel Francis, that at times are more reminiscent of East African pop. Opening with a traditional song from south Ethiopia and then grooving into a cover of Ransome, a hard-driving tune from the Groove Collective dedicated to Fela Kuti.
Wegegta’s guitarists Mehanie Woldemicheal and Robert Hall carried the band going back and forth through the set with great solos and finger-work. The band was amazingly tight as the music changed time though out songs. The intermix of the jazz beat and Ethiopian sound and rhythms worked well to warm the crowd up for a great evening of music. The half-hour time they played was too short, and Wegegta could easily have easily held their own for an entire show.
Before the AfriFest gala, Quilombolas guitarist and vocalist Matt Levitt greeted concert goers with an acoustic set. His ability to change up styles from the acoustic set to samba during the first number epitomized the band’s travel around the world of musical genres from rap and rock to samba and reggae. The act blended the styles of Rage Against the Machine with Ozomatli and guitar solos that were pure rock through their entire set.
With as seamlessly as the band blends different music styles, the vocals blended just as well with the sometimes higher falsetto voice of drummer Papi U complimenting the hip-hop vocals of Eric S.B. and Levitt8. In addition to the threesome, the band was joined by two guest percussionists which added a great Latin beat to the mix.