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March 05, 2009

Twenty Years of Afropop Worldwide

Afropop dancers were feeling the funk last night.

by John Oseid

Last night I found myself standing next to Harry Belafonte and his wife Pamela at Tavern on the Green, all of us thrilled by the Afro jazz-funk moves of the cast of the Off-Broadway hit Fela!. Okay, hangin' with Harry and marveling at Bill T. Jones's choreography isn't a typical night on my social calendar. I was there for Afropop Worldwide's 20th anniversary party, at which the music organization feted both Mr. Belafonte and the Beninese singer-songwriter Angelique Kidjo for their contributions to African diaspora music.

If you, like me, were weaned on an aural diet more Boston, Kansas, and Chicago than Dakar, Nairobi, and Kinshasa, then you were blown away when Georges Collinet brought you the top African performers on Afropop Worldwide's late-night radio show 20 years ago. The dapper Cameroonian host's lightly-inflected French accent is so radio perfect, you'd be gripped just to hear him read the Fruit Loops nutrition label. (I was last night after a simple "hello.") Now you can listen to him on PRI sharing the latest sounds from Africa.

And after you're hooked, give back to Afropop, right here.

More music:
* Antibalas banged out their funky Afrobeat sounds for the Fela! dancers last night. The popular Brooklyn collective tours the country often.
* The Mandingo Ambassadors played the Afropop party as well. The mixed African and Western group play every Wednesday night at the hipster Park Slop Brooklyn club Barbès.
* Two recent Condé Nast Traveler features are all about the music: Amy Wilentz went to Senegal for "L'Afrique, Mon Amour" and James Truman traveled to Mali for "Where the Music Lives".
* This piece traces Georges Collinet's early Cold War-era career with the Voice of America when the DJ was bringing rock and roll to far flung edges of the world.
* Apart from hearing Afropop Worldwide, the best education you could get on African diaspora music is to read basically anything by their contributing writer Banning Eyre.
* Boom Box: An unabashed gusto for music of the world


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