Dance unites cultures. Music frees minds. West Africa meets American hip hop when two of Chicago’s premier live ensembles — Chicago Afrobeat Project and Sidewalk Chalk — perform a long overdue collaboration as well as independent sets. Trio Mokili debuts its lively West African guitar-led songs, while Ayodele Drum & Dance lifts spirits with its female-led West African percussion and dance. Prepare to raise another glass to Chicago’s artists and their creative cross-pollination of the MIDWEST’S FINEST MUSIC SCENE.
On Saturday September 14 Chicago Afrobeat Project performs at the beautiful Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park as a part of the 2013 World Music Festival. Following the band is Bassekou Kouyate (pictured).
The event takes place as a part of Festival au Desert (Festival in the Desert). Festival au Desert began in 2001 in the arid lands just outside of Timbuktu, a dazzling clearinghouse of the rich sounds emanating from Mali, one of Africa’s poorest nations financially, but richest culturally.
The event quickly developed into one of world music’s signature events, spearheaded by members of the great Tuareg group Tinariwen. But when Islamic fundamentalists hijacked a Tuareg uprising in 2012 the festival had to be canceled among increasing violence. So this year the event is in exile and members of the Malian musical community have organized an informal caravan of sounds across the US this summer, and a slew of great players roll into the city for this year’s World Music Festival: Chicago. Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba, Mamadou Kelly, Sidi Toure, and Leila Gobi all perform multiple concerts, showcasing the bluesy foundation of traditional Malian music.
Chicago Afrobeat Project will perform new material written during the band’s week-long session with master drummer Tony Allen. The week included performances, writing, recording and workshops on afrobeat.
“Without Tony Allen, there would be no afrobeat.” – Fela Kuti
“Perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived.” – Brian Eno
Master Class & Workshop
A master class for student and professional musicians to explore afrobeat through a hands-on experience with drummer and originator of Afrobeat: Tony Allen. In addition to being recognized worldwide for his music, he is also known for delivering a brilliant master class in which he shares his knowledge about music, music cognition, the concepts of rhythm, time, breath and the sound possibilities that the drums can provide in conjunction with the pace of the body. During the workshop Tony Allen shares his story and reveals aspects of African culture in music, his experiences and his skills behind the drums that defined the drumming patterns of afrobeat. The master class includes discussion on the formation of a dynamic within a group. Group exercises with audience participation will demonstrate the techniques he has developed throughout the years. The workshop culminates with Tony performing live with Chicago Afrobeat Project.
Included in Event:
- Master class
- Drum workshop
- 1 ticket to August 1 performance of Chicago Afrobeat Project featuring Tony Allen
- Noon: Doors
- 12:30 – 1:30 PM: Guided discussion with Tony Allen by Oyekunle Oyegbemi from the Yoruba Arts Foundation
- 1:30 – 1:45 PM: Break
- 1:45 – 2:30 PM: Afrobeat technique workshop & clinic; Tony at the drum set on stage
- 2:45 – 3 PM+: Tony performs with CAbP
About Tony Allen
Legendary drummer and composer Tony Allen rose to prominence in the mid-1960s alongside fellow Nigerian Fela Kuti as a pioneer of Afrobeat, a blend of jazz, traditional Yoruba and high life music. The self-taught drummer began to play aged 18 and devoured American music by the likes of Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker alongside contemporary African tracks. The young Tony Allen began playing claves (sticks) before being promoted to the drum stool in Victor Olaiya’s highlife act, the Cool Cats.
As part of Kuti’s Africa ’70, Tony soon found fame for his impressive percussion technique – drumming in a different time signature with each of his four limbs. “I like to extract the beat that’s there and then try lots of different eats and different ways of drumming around it.’ Tony is quick to address the misconception that James Brown’s visit to Lagos in 1970 was a turning point for the way African musicians played, “What really happened was that his musicians came to our club to see us every night after their show. The truth is that James Brown’s band learned more from African musicians than we learned from James Brown.” His work with Fela Kuti and Africa ’70 saw him record over thirty albums before leaving the band in 1979 to pursue a successful solo career.
After his departure, Fela needed four drummers to replace him for live performances: such was his rhythmic ferocity behind the drum kit. It was at this time that he developed Afrofunk, a hybrid of Afrobeat, electronica and rap. He rejects this label however, preferring to see the sound as a development of Afrobeat – an experiment.
Throughout his solo career, Tony has shown a willingness to broaden his musical palette as well as keeping alive the spirit of Afrobeat. He’s collaborated with a number of musicians around the world including Blur frontman Damon Albarn. The duo recorded the album The Good, the Bad & the Queen in 2007 as one half of a supergroup also featuring Simon Tong of The Verve and Paul Simonon of The Clash. Since then Allen and Albarn have also teamed up with Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea under the name Rocket Juice & the Moon.