Afropop Worldwide is the Peabody Award-winning public radio series hosted by Georges Collinet and web site (afropop.org) dedicated to celebrating the contemporary music cultures of Africa and the African diaspora. And even at 31 years old, Afropop is still having “firsts.” On Friday, March 15, at the Palm Door in Austin, TX, Afropop is hosting its first ever South by Southwest showcase, presenting six artists from across the African continent. If you’re in town for the sprawling event, it’ll be worth dropping in to the Palm Door at 508 E 6th Street starting around 7:30. Our friends globalFEST will be at the venue’s other stage with a lineup that, judging from the names we know on their list, is also absolute fire. So what can you expect and when?
7:30: Nsimbi: Website
The night begins with one of our more mellow selections: Nsimbi. Comprising the Ugandan hip-hop artist GNL Zamba and American world-fusion artist Miriam Tamar, the music on the duet's 2018 debut finds the vocalists trading lines and swapping languages over churning, trance-inducing East African instrumentation. With GNL’s background as a pioneering East African rapper and Tamar’s journey through academia in the northeastern U.S. en route to East Africa (where the duo met), they are comfortable fusing traditional elements with new ones.
8:30: Aramide: Website
If you liked David Bowie for his impeccable fashion sense and ability to play both guitar and saxophone, then Aramide is here for you. The Nigerian singer also draws from the soul-and-jazz past, but she’s at a heart a musical omnivore—sneaking in snippets from Rihanna and collaborating widely, including withfellow Afropop showcaser Adekunle Gold on the song “Love Me.”
9:30: AfrotroniX Website
In his trademark helmet, AfrotroniX may look like he came to Austin from his home in Montreal by way of the space station. He’s a futurist, for sure, but one with roots on the ground. Rippling AutoTune effects on his vocals recall the latest in Afrobeats, while slippery guitars and pulsing, swinging beat evoke Franchophonic African music both old and contemporary.
10:30: Jojo Abot Website
What more can we say about Jojo Abot? I’ll say this: to hear her on record is great, but also to miss a lot. She’s been working in the “movement” world for the last few years and both her dancing and music—and costuming—have only gotten more daring and adventurous. After the Ghanaian artist spent time in South Africa, she’s started incorporating elements of gqom into her work, as well as more pronounced social themes about revealing the “power to the god within,” as her twice-mounted performance at National Sawdust was titled.
11:30: Shirazee Website
The Benin-born, Ghana-educated, Paris-then-Atlanta-now-New York transplant is without doubt a rising star, appearing on NPR’s All Songs Considered’s list of the 100 artists to check out in Austin this year, and it’s easy to see why. Shirazee is a songwriter to his core, composing “for everyone from Ty Dolla $ign to Sting.” His mostly electronic soundscapes pulse with a world of experience while his vocals exude a sense of wonder and ecstasy.
12:30: Adekunle Gold Website
Adekunle Gold’s honey-dripping voice and expansive arrangements have elevated the Nigerian singer to celebrity—his wedding to his fellow singer Simi made headlines and attracted public congratulations from one of the continent’s biggest stars in America, Davido. Adekunle Gold's rise was quick, on the wings of highlife covers of One Direction and John Legend hits, but he quickly found his own niche and style. With a background in graphic design, I think it’s safe to assume that Adekunle Gold has a few visual tricks up his sleeve for the Palm Door to accompany his dulcet melodies.
So, we'll see you there?