This concert is a celebration of Siama's latest album Rivers. First released in May 2016 and recorded with the help of a host of Minnesota-based musicians inspired by various cultures, Matuzungidi transforms traditional Congolese dance rhythms into a dynamic, original sound. Songs on the album are enhanced by a surprising array of genres, including Indian saraswati veena, Himalayan chanting, pedal steel, vocal harmonies and cello, layered above the nimble talents of accomplished jazz musicians.
Currently based in Minneapolis, Siama was a prolific studio musician in DR Congo during the golden era of soukous music during the 1970s and 80. His distinctive guitar style is featured on over 100 hit songs, several of which he composed. He has performed with many Congolese greats - including Sam Mangwana, Tshala Muana, Kanda Bongo Man, Samba Mapangala and Moni Mambo - and was instrumental in the global popularization of soukous.
The Ethiopian trio Krar Collective will bring a new dimension to the American stage with their spellbinding rhythms, driven by the double-headed kebero drum. The trio consists of Temesegen Zeleke on the krar (a five- or six-stringed harp), drummer Grum Begashaw and singer Genet Asefa, who provides soaring ululations and perfectly delivered melodies. The ancient krar dates far back into Ethiopian history and is a virtal part of Ethiopia's azmari minstrel tradition.
The Krar Collective base their repertoire on traditional Ethiopian songs but have created a unique style with timeless appeal. Their musical stops and starts create an organic syncopation, with the krar alternating between a lead and rhythm instrument. Zeleke gives these traditions a contemporary twist. In his hands, plugged in and strummed with hypnotic grooves, the krar becomes a gritty, ancient rock guitar, earning Krar Collective comparisons to American band The White Stripes for their minimalist, rocky sound. Indeed Zeleke is considered a revolutionary krar player and as a young student was mentored and encouraged by legendary Ethiopian jazzman Mulatu Astatke.
Beyond this collaborative concert, fans of Ethiopian music have something else to look forward to as Fendika, a troupe of the most accomplished azmari musicians and dancers from Addis Ababa, will stage another performance at the Cedar Cultural Center later in the year, on 13 September. Fendika draws deeply from the well of Ethiopia’s tradition while adding creative movements and sounds that revitalize the ancient artistic forms.