Everybody’s Talkin’ ‘bout (Afro) Pop Music
By Sara Bruya (c) 2001
My first exposure to modern music from the African Diaspora was in high school, when I would take a break from my homework to listen to Afro-Pop Worldwide on NPR (“with your host Georges ‘Zzzhorsh’ Collinet!”) But the African Pop scene hadn’t struck big in my small
I can’t remember the first time I set foot in Zinc Bar – a cozy downstairs dive just west of LaGuardia on
The band is Kaïssa, named for Kaïssa Doumbè, the elegant and charismatic lead singer from
Kaïssa describes her sound as a blend of Reggae, Jazz, R&B, Makossa (a Cameroonian dance rhythm from the
Ngosso music from
Ambassibé music from
Afro Beat from
Mandingo music (Salif Keïta, Kassé Mady)
South African music (Myriam Makeba, Dorothy Masuka, Bussi Mhlongo)
Afro American music ( Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis, Jackson 5, Charlie Parker, Louis Armstrong, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder...)
Once becoming an “African Fridays” regular at Zinc, I discovered another of my favorites, Nkossi Konda with his band Peace of Mind. Nkossi, who was born in the Congo, gives an energetic performance of what he calls “Tri-cultural Pop,” referring to the musical influences he gathered as a result of extensive travel between the U.S., Europe and Africa starting at an early age. The result is a lively blend of Funk, Soukous (a musical style popular in the
Nkossi draws influence from many of the great bands and individual artists from his country (Zaiko Langa Langa, Papa Wemba, Franco & Koffi Olomide and others) while acknowledging Marvin Gaye, The Commodores, Rod Stewart, Peter Gabriel, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, The Police and especially Bob Marley as his primary “mainstream” influences.
“Tri-cultural pop represents the fusion between (the) three cultures that I have had the fortune and privilege of fully experiencing,” Nkossi says. “My challenge has always been about becoming one of the first African artists to cross over on the
And this could very well describe the challenge to Afro-Pop in general-- a form that crosses, without watering down, the best of ancient and traditional African rhythms with modern, progressive pop. But breaking into the American market is not easy.
“I sense that people are really open to our music,” Kaïssa says. “They are kind of ‘hungry’ for it. They are ready to hear it! But let me say this: There are not enough venues to perform. Record companies are not open to even trying (to sign us). If they do, they do not know how to promote it they say. There’s lots of work to do still.”
Nkossi agrees. “The majority of major labels in the States have not yet figured out that there is a market for those of us who were raised abroad, speak the language fluently and understand the importance and the dynamics of our adoptive Cultures.” But he adds, “Our world is getting smaller and more and more musicians are willing to fuse their sound with those from other cultures. The bottom line is that once you get past the language, it is just music!”
The success of this fusion can be heard in Nkossi’s dynamic live performances and especially on his Adyoyoyo Mona Lisa album which has consistently remained in the top 15 on the
In addition to its fusion of sounds, Afro-Pop has a strong tradition of political and social activism. Kaïssa sings against war and injustice and has performed for AIDS Research, UNESCO, and for Nelson Mandela’s Birthday Concert in
The commitment of these performers to the plights of the human spirit seems only a natural outgrowth of their music. Afro-Pop, with its infectious dance rhythms and memorable melodies, can’t help but bring one to feel more happy and alive! Be sure to experience it while such seasoned and talented performers are available in such an intimate and welcoming setting--for such a reasonable cover!
Nkossi Konda with his band Peace of Mind will be at Zinc Bar on February 16, 2001. Kaïssa Doumbè will be there the following Friday, February 23.
Sets start at 11:00, 12:30 and 2:00. $5 cover.
For a map of the African continent go to: http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/PCL/Map_collection/africa/Africa.GIF
Contact Info and Recommended links:
Zinc Bar: 90 W.
Other venues which feature Afro-Pop in NYC include Nell’s, Lion’s Den (African Tuesdays), Joe’s Pub, and SOBs.
Kaïssa Doumbè – www.kaissa.com
To order Tamboula Malembe or Adyoyoyo Mona Lisa, contact
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