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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

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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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Maria Isa at Trocaderos from City PagesBorn Maria Isabelle Perez Vega to Nuyorican parents (los quieros!) and raised on St. Paul’s Westside, Maria Isa was surrounded by music and a large family.

“We’re (the family) the Boricua (version) of the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” except we say “Wepa!” instead of “Opa! (partially paraphrased from Isa’s MySpace Bio)”

Growing up and influenced by a wide range of music from Fania and Motown Soul to Old School Hip-Hop, Isa’s music career started at a very early age. As she described her childhood in a recent interview with the Pulse of The Twin Cities Magazine, “I had always been singing and playing Bomba (Afro-Puerto Rican folkloric music) and Plena (news of island through music and dance) since I was 5 years old. I had been hearing it since I was a baby. I picked up hip-hop in the same elements of singing during family gatherings.

At the age of 7, she was invited on stage with Salsa singer La India and given timbales sticks from the late great Tito Puente. From then she knew she wanted to be reaching others by being in the spotlight and behind a mic.

Maria Isa teaches Boricua history/song/vocal instructions to children at El Arco Iris Center for the Arts in St. Paul, while performing with the folklore group “RAICES“(roots).

Her lyrics flow naturally in Spanglish with strong political convictions, and mix her Puerto Rican background with her Twin Cities environment. It’s best explained by a quote from her MySpace page, “Never for get the pride for our cultura, our language, our movement or else we become descendents! We become lost…. For those who are lost, it’s our duty to respect and educate them towards freedom.

Describing her role as powerful and positive female voz (voice) on the hip-hop scene, “If you notice, the women who are in it now are being represented as hoes in the videos. There aren’t too many women using their femininity and sexuality in a positive way and not a trashy way. There’s already not that many of us that are out there. We need to start a revolution. B-Girl Be is a revolution. What we need to say is we are here and need to be respected just like any other person.

Isa will be performing at the AfriFest Gala at the Cedar Cultural Center on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 10:00 pm on the Main Stage. Isa is one of five acts performing at the Cedar, and will be a definite and distinct voice to reckon with. 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.

Definitely check out her songs at MySpace and interview with Pulse before the show.

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It’s called the Young Irish Musicians Weekend, but according to the web site: “Due to strong demand, we have opened registration to students ages 5-85 – but note our strict requirement: ONLY FOR THE YOUNG AT HEART!”

I found the information from a blog dedicated to traditional and Celtic music – Trad Music News. You can also get more information by visiting the Young Irish Musicians Weekend web site.

Events open to the public will be held on June 22nd – 24th through out the Twin Cities. There are also lessons and a variety of workshops for musicians.

“Participants will engage with our internationally recognized master musicians, exploring not only music but Irish heritage as well. The weekend features classes, student performances and (of course!) loads of sessions. This exciting event is sure to inspire our next generation of musicians in a fun, safe, non-competitive environment.”

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While attending the Vieux Farka Toure concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis, the MC mentioned that Tinariwen will be playing in concert in November. The group is amazing and has a lot of material on the web. This is definitely one not to miss.

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