Music Action Lab selects Togolese and Rwandan artists for US residency

Rwandan singer–songwriter Teta Diana and Togolese guitarist Amen Viana are among nine musicians selected for the inaugural Music Action Lab residency in San Francisco. The four week residency, which is currently ongoing, brings together "musicians from across the globe to create social impact music and to nurture the next generation of musical changemakers," according to a statement on the Lab's website.

Amen Viana
Amen Viana

During the residency, artists will create original music dedicated to advancing social justice and social good, while developing leadership skill. After the residency, the selected artists will show their work at one of the world's leading gathering of social change leaders, the Opportunity Collaboration, taking place in Cancun, Mexico between 9 - 14 October.

The artists will be mentored by the Grammy-nominated Eric Harland, singer Emel Mathlouthi and Wil Blades, an organ player.

While Harland is one of the most celebrated drummers in jazz music and has received four nominations at the Grammys, Tunisia’s Mathlouthi became a leading light of the Arab Spring through freedom and revolution anthems like 'You Tounes Ya Meskina' (Poor Tunisia) and 'Kelmti Horra' (My Word is Free). Her upcoming album creates a unique sonic universe where shaded Arabic tones co-exist with thundering beats and searing melodies. Wil Blades is a master organist who has played with groups such as Stanton Moore Trio and most recently Billy Martin and Wil Blades Duo.

Participant bios

Teta Diana was born in Kenya, raised in Uganda, and came to Rwanda after the 1994 genocide. She  launched her professional music career in 2012. In the same year, her participation at Tusker Project Fame, a talent development programme held in Kenya enabled her to attract attention beyond Rwanda. She later joined the acclaimed Rwandan traditional band, Gakondo Group, as first and only female artist.

While still with the group, she built a solo career, and worked to merge the worlds of afro-pop and traditional music. She is currently working on her first allbum.

Hailing from Lome, Togo, the versatile guitarist and vocalist Amen Viana brings a unique combination of reggae, funk, afrobeat, pop, rock and blues music. The death of his elder brother inspired Viana to intensify his passion for music. After establishing himself with Togolese groups such as Natty Dread and the Maleeka trio, Amen collaborated with renowned groups and artists including the Black Eyed Peas, Vieux Farka Toure and Miriam Makeba.

As soloist and bandleader, Amen has released three albums: Gamessou, a sonic alliance of rock and traditional Togelese music, Zoka Fonktion and Pearls & Gold. His current project, Electric Togoland, captures the heart of Togolese music across generations and is scheduled for release in 2017.

Other artists taking part in the Music Action Lab residency are singer-songwriter Aisha Fukushima (USA/Japan), Derek Beckvold (USA), Farhan Bogra (Pakistan), I´caro Sa´ (Brazil), Owen Clapp (USA), Tyler Nam Berg (USA) and Will Magid (USA). 


For more information, visit the Music Action Lab website

 

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