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Africa on the Square: Bringing music from the Motherland

FUNKY FLAVOURS: Afla Sackey and AfrikBawantu

AFLA SACKEY and Moelogo are among the acts delivering the music at Africa on the Square next month.

Launched last year, the festival proved to be a huge hit, with 20,000 people turning out to Trafalgar Square to enjoy the celebration of African culture in the heart of the capital.

This year, Africa on the Square, curated by cultural events organisation Open The Gate, looks set to be an even bigger success, with live music, DJs, dancers, food stalls and an African market providing the highlights of the day.

Organised by the Mayor of London to mark Black History Month (October), the event will be hosted by presenter Esther Alade and performer Usifu Jalloh, aka the Cowfoot Prince, while Capital XTRA DJ Abrantee will be on the decks.

The festival will take place on October 10 and will feature music from acts representing Ghana, Tanzania and Senegal – to name a few – reflecting the abundance of talent spanning the continent. Here are the performers that will be flexing their music muscles on the day:

Afla Sackey & AfrikBawantu 

Formed in 2007 by Ghanaian vocalist and djembe drummer Afla Sackey, AfrikBawantu is a 10-piece, London-based orchestra that fuses traditional Ghanaian music with sizzling Afrobeat grooves.

Complete with fast, animated horn sections and heavy basslines, AfrikBawantu boasts a unique blend of vibrant African rhythms and brings a whole new definition to the Afro-Funk genre.
The band released its EP Noko Hewon in 2013 to critical acclaim and has since been nominated in the World Music Network’s charts.

In 2014, they released the album Life On The Street, a solid body of work that demonstrated AfrikBawantu’s take on West African Highlife and Afrobeat, combined with heavier funk, rock and jazz genres. Hailed as a cross-cultural collaboration of members from both Africa and Europe, AfrikBawantu showcases traditional African flavours with a funky and contemporary twist.

Saidi Kanda & Mvula Mandondo 

Founded by internationally respected musician Saidi Kanda, who first made his name with Remmy Ongala’s orchestra Super Matimila, Mvula Mandondo presents an original concoction of Tanzanian village roots, urban rumba and Afro-Caribbean influences, blending traditional and modern instruments.

Kanda’s vocal virtuosity accompanied by commanding guitar-driven rhythms force you to move, while the sounds of strings, thumb piano harmonies and guitar rhythms wash over the listener like tropical rain.

Boasting a versatile range of musical styles, Mvula Mandondo pride themselves on blending unique styles and sounds that listeners have never heard before.

The group’s 2013 album Ambush was a collaboration between Kanda and musician/producer Edward Shearer. It featured songs written and composed by Kanda and brought to life the traditional music of the Ndengeleko and Manyema people of Central East Africa – a tradition steeped in songs of deep emotion – while also featuring Caribbean, Latin, African and European influences.

Krar Collective 

The London-based Ethiopian collective serve up a colourful feast of mind-blowing Ethiopian grooves. Led by Temesgen Zeleke, a former student of Ethiojazz legend Mulatu Astatke, Krar Collective perform a rootsy yet contemporary take on traditional music from Ethiopia, complete with otherworldly sounds and driven by hypnotic rhythms.

The traditional acoustic krar lyre harp is associated with the azmari minstrel tradition. Electrified in the hands of Zeleke, it becomes a gritty, ancient rock guitar. Accompanied only by traditional kebero drums and fronted by stunning vocals, Krar Collective create a surprising full band sound and have been dubbed ‘The Ethiopian White Stripes’.

Their debut album Ethiopia Super Krar stayed true to their sound. It was described as a record “rooted in tradition and soaked with attitude”.

Tony Dudu & The Gumbe Jazz 

Born in Guinea-Bissau, Tony Dudu has been an important musical figure in the emerging palop sound for over two decades.

With his band The Gumbe Jazz, the musician has had countless audiences on their feet.
At just nine years of age, Dudu built his first guitar from an olive oil tin, a broom handle and two nylon strings. Clearly destined for musical greatness, Dudu moved to Portugal in 1998 and was asked to join the group Os Issabary from Guinea Bissau. He made a name for himself as an in-demand session musician and appeared on over 100 records with a number of African artists.

In 2007, Dudu moved to the UK with the hope of making new musical connections and two years later, he formed The Gumbe Jazz. Fusing West African rhythms with Latin grooves, South African rhythms and jazz, the collective is sure to make you move.

Abdoulaye Samb & Minnjiaraby 

Led by the Senegalese musician Abdoulaye Samb, Minnjiaraby have been described as one of the best hidden gems on London’s African music scene.

The Senegalese outfit draws elements from the rich Fula tradition, interwoven with rumba, Mbalax, Afro-Latin and blues.

A guitarist, singer and composer, Samb began music on the beaches of Senegal, creating his own instrument from scratch, using fishing lines as strings. The result was a sound evocating those of traditional West African instruments. He went on to play guitar with many acts including Assane Mboup, Abdou Diop and Baaba Maal, before launching Minnjiaraby in 2001.
This new collective went on to play at festivals across France, Spain, Germany and the UK, showcasing their blend of Mbalax, Senegalese blues and Afro acoustic sounds, deeply rooted in Fula and Mandinka cultures. The music has grown from Samb’s travels, collaborations and encounters in both Africa and Europe and the group released its album Wouty in 2013.

Moelogo

The rising Afrobeats singer enjoyed success earlier this year with his single My Sweetie, which was playlisted on BBC 1Xtra. Now gearing up for the release of his new single Do You Love Me, Moelogo has enjoyed strong support from several UK radio stations with his earlier single The Baddest chosen as presenter Sarah Jane Crawford's 1Xtra Track of the Week.

Moelogo was recently nominated at the NEA Awards for Diaspora Artist of the Year and has performed throughout the UK in recent months on Fuse ODG's TINA Tour and Manchester's Festival of Culture.

Born in Lagos, Nigeria, the aspiring singer became a member of his school choir at the age of 14, and was able to improve his vocal range and gain more knowledge about music.

He moved to the UK in 2001 and continued to build his music career, garnering support from audiences and DJs alike. He gained particular recognition during a performance with dancehall star Busy Signal in Gambia, where he performed to a crowd of 60,000 people.

Joining the likes of fellow artists Fuse ODG and D’Banj, who fly the flag for contemporary Afrobeats, Moelogo is an impressive and fast-rising talent representing the UK’s African music scene.

Africa on the Square takes place at Trafalgar Square, London on October 10. For more information, visit www.london.gov.uk/events

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