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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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On July 18th at the Cedar Cultural Center five bands performed all influenced by or hailing from Africa. Richard Ooga, a professional photographer with ePix Mobile Studios located in Lakeville and contributor to Mshale, was kind enough to provide me with images he took of the concerts.

Wegegta
Wegegta - The Entire BandMany of Wegegta’s band members come from Ethiopia but now reside in the Twin Cities. Wegegta means a sprinkle or a ray of light, according to bass guitarist, Jonathan Bekure. The bands sound fuses jazz, Afropop, and a fat sound from keyboardist, Samuel Francis, that at times are more reminiscent of East African pop.

Jonathan Bekure - Bassist for Wegegta  Kody Ellington - Drummer for Wegegta  Mehanie Woldemichael - Guitarist Wegegta  Samuel Francis - Keyboards for Wegegta  Robert Bell - Guitarist for Wegegta  Wegegta - The Entire Band

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Maria Isa performance at the Cedar for AfriFestThe bomba beat began and I was on my feet moving to the groove along with most of the crowd at the Cedar. Maria Isa combines hip-hop sounds with a full salsa band, politically-charged Spanglish lyrics that flow as seamlessly from English to Spanish as they do from rap to singing, and a body that won’t quite as she moves to beats of the band.

The band was amazing and tight, the bomba beat blended with drums, bomba drums, trumpet, synthesizer, back-up vocalist, and guitar. With ease the band switched music styles from the hip-hop performance of “Die, Not Kill” and an instrumental piece featuring the bomba drum that had everyone on the floor to an ironic lyrical playoff of everyone from the North Star state being so…MN Nice.

Powerful behind the mic and empowering in her lyrics, Maria Isa’s music best embodied the idea of AfriFest, as a coming together of all cultures, and with her band owned the Cedar audience on Saturday.

City Pages reporter Peter Scholtes checks out rising reggaeton star Maria Isa at Babalu, Nov. 16, 2006. With appearances by Desdamona and the b-girls of B-Girl Be.

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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.

Quilombolas performing during the Afrifest GalaThe 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.

Wegegta
Mehanie Woldemichael, guitarist for Wegegta 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.

Matt Levitt of QuilombolasQuilombolas
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.

Quilombolas Eric S.B. (bass) and Papi U (drums) perform at the CedarWith 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.

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Munnah Myers - Soulful Liberian Hip-Hop ArtistEnergy and focus defines this talented singer, dancer, and songwriter. A refugee from the civil wars that ravaged her native homeland of Liberia, Munnah began her entertainment career dancing and singing as a part of the refugee camp activities in Ghana.

Eventually her family made their way to Minneapolis, where she has continued actively writing and performing. She is absorbed in composing her own version of Hip-Hop music that clearly resonates with the Twin Cities young people and challenges the body to sit still. Munnah in her music keeps her feet planted in both American and Liberian cultures, incorporating soulful American hip-hop influences such as Mary J. Blige and Lauren Hill and challenging the norms of her culture by speaking about the treatment of young women. She is committed to raising the awareness of these actions, and making positive changes where she can.

An example of her blending of cultures can be found on her MySpace website in the single, “West Africa,” where she acknowledges the conflicts of the past years in West Africa, expresses wishes for peace and a love for her people. With her personal history shaped by conflicts and constant movement and a willingness to share her love of a continent, hope and peace could not have found a better spokesperson.

Munnah takes the main stage of the Cedar Cultural Center at 9:00 PM. Doors open for the gala at 6:00 PM, and the main stage bands start at 7:00. Tickets for the AfriFest Gala are $10 at the door for five bands.

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Quilombolas To Perform at AfrifestDuring colonial times the Quilombos of Brazil provided a place of refuge for anyone regardless of background or creed. Quilombolas’ music, infused with vibes of liberty, justice, and equality, establishes a similar musical refuge through its multi-lingual, socio-politically-aware lyrics, driving rhythms, and blending of world musical styles.

As the band’s website describes, “The members have a common love and appreciation for music that grooves, reflecting the fact that the sounds they enjoy all come from Africa and the subsequent African Diaspora. Funk, rock, hip-hop, samba, salsa, reggae, and many other cultural genres are combined with multilingual lyrics representing the spoken languages of the Americas.”

The band cites such inspirations including Ozomatli, Spearhead, and the Police. They’re a great, new sound to hit the Minneapolis scene, and should add a lot of spice to the Afrifest Gala this Saturday evening. Quilombos takes the main stage of the Cedar Cultural Center at 8:00 PM. Doors open for the gala at 6:00 PM, and the main stage bands start at 7:00. Tickets for the AfriFest Gala are $10 at the door for five bands.

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afrifest.jpgVOLUNTEERS URGENTLY NEEDED FOR AFRIFEST ON SUNDAY, AUGUST 19th! EVERY VOLUNTEER GETS A FREE T-SHIRT AND THE CHANCE TO MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE IN THE SUCCESS OF AFRIFEST 2007

We are currently signing up volunteers for the following areas. There are no small jobs; everyone counts towards the success of the event. Volunteers’ shifts run on Sunday, August 19, from 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. with six two-hour shifts.

Food and drinks for the volunteers on the day of the festival

*Security
*Stage crew
*Info booth
*Greet and Assist attendees/ pick up trash
*Clean up
*Photography, still and video
*Attendee questionnaire management and analysis
*Pop and Water Concessions

Neo Rowan: Volunteers Coordinator
Tel: 612-670-5823 / Volunteers@afrifest.org

Non-profit organizations can also sponsor Afrifest by providing volunteers to work the event and assist with festival activities. Please check out volunteer page on the website for all the info and volunteer sign-up form.

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