African sounds to light up 'world jazz' fest in New York

Arki Sound will draw directly upon the musical traditions of East Africa to thrill fans at the first-ever New York festival of world jazz. The Pangea Jazz Festival debuts at DROM, one of New York’s leading venues for world music, on 15 November. 

Kelenia band. Photo:
Kelenia band. Photo:

The festival will dedicate 12 hours of continuous world jazz sounds and will gather an all-star collective of many of the city's top world jazz practitioners who combine jazz with the traditions of music from all around the world. Two bands at the festival will draw directly upon the musical traditions of Africa, both the East and West coasts of the continent. New York-based Arki Sound led by electric bassist Samson Kebede, draws its sound from classic Ethiopian jazz of the 1960s and 70s.

Kelenia, on the other hand draws on Malian music and features traditional Malian musicians. The band is led by a rising star clarinetist Oran Etkin fom Israel.  First formed in 2003, Kelenia's original members Oran (saxophone), Balla Kouyate (balafon) and Makane Kouyate (calabash and vocals) have developed an almost telepathic connection that transcends nationality and genre to create music that is free and spontaneous enough to go into uncharted territories.

Festival attendees will journey from East Africa to Eastern Europe, from South-East Asia to South America, and from North America to West Africa. By focusing on the geographically musical influences, the festival will also take listeners from Western Europe to Western Asia via the Balkans. In some cases the festival will highlight very different jazz influences from the same country, such as Colombia's cumbia and joropo.

Though jazz was born in the US, its ancestry and roots come from outside of America's borders from a multitude of musical traditions. "Jazz is a symbolic force that pulls the continents together back into one, hence the name of the festival," says festival director Michael Katsobashvili. For more information visit the festival’s website.


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