Field Report November 13, 2023
Afropop Marks 35 Years with Congo-Style Gala at New York's SOB's

Congo's Samba Mapangala and the Soukous Stars electrified the iconic New York nightclub SOB's on Friday, November 10th, with a dynamic Afropop Dance Party. This exhilarating event celebrated Afropop Worldwide's 35th anniversary and SOB's 40th. Samba led a full-fledged soukous ensemble of ten U.S.-based African musicians and dancers. The lineup featured the likes of Jaja Bashengezi on lead guitar, Ngouma Lokito on bass, Nkumu Katalay on congas, Freddy Nyembwe and Chekedar es Salam on backing vocals, alongside a duo of captivating women dancers, choreographed by Coreen Robcedo. Samba performed some of his renowned hits like "Malako Disco." It paid homage to the pioneers of modern Congolese music from the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, including legends like Luambo Makiadi Franco and Tabu Ley Rochereau. The audience was utterly entranced! Flanking Samba's set, dj Henri unleashed vibrant sets of Afrobeats, soukous, rumba, soca, and more. Esteemed speakers like BZB International's Juanita Britton, Tabilulu Productions' Lubangi Muniania, Afropop Worldwide's Sean Barlow, and SOB's Avery Landau took to the stage, sharing their heartfelt admiration for Samba Mapangala, Afropop Worldwide, and SOB's. A sincere thanks to all involved!

For those who attended this unforgettable party on Friday, please share your best photos and videos with us at banning@afropop and We aim to cherish every moment of this spectacular night!

On the screen at SOB's was an extensive collection of images, capturing the essence of Afropop's 35-year journey through Africa and the Americas. Afropop Worldwide's co-Executive Producer Banning Eyre skillfully captured most of these images. This visual feast included snapshots of artists previously recorded at SOBs, such as Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens from South Africa, Papa Wemba and Loketo from Congo, Thomas Mapfumo from Zimbabwe, David Rudder from Trinidad, Joao Bosco from Brazil, Oumou Sangare from Mali, Marce and Tumpak from Martinique, and Oscar de Leon from Venezuela. These timeless recordings of world-class artists in their prime continue to resonate with time and are being re-introduced to the Afropop community of radio listeners and a global online audience on

At our Friday soukous-focused event, we were thrilled to feature a groundbreaking exhibition of vibrant contemporary Congolese paintings. Elizabeth Jaffee presented this remarkable showcase from Washington D.C.'s Gallery Article 15, a unique gallery distinguished as the only one in the U.S. specializing in contemporary Congolese art. The collection, comprising around fifteen exquisite paintings, captivated and received admiration from all attendees.

Donning his co-Executive Producer hat, Sean Barlow thanked the attendees for honoring us and enjoying Samba Mapangala and his music crew. He reminded everyone that the event was a "benefit" for our 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and that 100% of the proceeds from ticket sales went directly to our modestly funded non-profit. Juanita Britton pulled out her cell phone on stage, asking everyone to visit, click on Donate, and pledge any amount they felt comfortable giving. Thanks to everyone who gave extra beyond buying tickets to our event. And thanks to the readers of this article for doing the same.

Even if you were not with us in person on Friday, every soukous lover, Afropop fan, and believer in our ongoing effort to substantially grow international recognition and enjoyment of African and diaspora music and stories is invited to contribute. You can make a one-time donation or, better still, become a monthly sustainer!

The night shifted into high gear when Lubangi Muniania introduced Samba Mapangala, recounting his globe-trotting journey from Kinshasa in then Zaire (now Congo) to Nairobi, to London, and finally to the U.S., where he currently resides. The performance was electrifying, from the first note to the last, featuring three-guitar interplay and gorgeous three-part male vocal harmonies. No less a Congo music aficionado than DJ Henri said afterward, “Aside from Zaiko Langa Langa five years ago, I haven't seen a soukous band as hot as this since the mid-90s. Bravissimi!”

But this event was more than a trip down Memory Lane. Afropop aims to double our budget in two to three years and significantly grow our multicultural, multigenerational, global online audience tenfold in the coming year—primarily through our twice-monthly Planet Afropop podcast, co-hosted by Banning Eyre, Georges Collinet, and Mukwae Wabei Siyolwe, and our socials, newly empowered by the addition of our new Director of Operations & New Media, Ceyvion Biggs. You can email any of us on the Afropop Worldwide staff at You can also use the format—

Committed Afropop fans can become more deeply involved by joining our Board of Directors or our Board of Advisors or by becoming an Afropop Ambassador, helping to support future Afropop events and reaching out to African and diaspora stakeholders, influencers, tastemakers, and fans who, despite our 35 years in the trenches, still don't know us.

A few quick points to end with: We are in the process of organizing Afropop reporting desks to engage local music journalists in Africa and the diaspora to file feature stories, photo essays, artist interviews, city portraits, opinion pieces, and video playlists. Our first target is Brazil, where we are setting up a reporting desk based in Sao Paulo under the editorial direction of producer/broadcaster/Afropop contributor Beco Dranoff to cover events there as well as in Rio, Salvador de Bahia, Recife, Belem (Amazon), and Belo Horizonte. We envision other reporting desks in Lagos, Johannesburg, Kinshasa, Dar es Salaam, Dakar, Cairo, Paris, London, Chicago, L.A. If you want to get involved or have contacts in these cities who might be aligned with the Afropop mission and have resources to help make our reporting desks a reality, you know where to find us:

Finally, we are excited to roll out the inaugural edition of Camp Afropop, a three-day immersive experience from May 28-31 at the Full Moon Resort in the beautiful Catskill Hills near Woodstock, N.Y. We've curated a rich experience featuring concerts, workshops, master classes, late-night jams, dance parties, song circles, campfires, and, very cool, hang time with the artists, which we know will delight everyone. Our artists for Camp Afropop 2024 include Natu Camara from Guinea, Afro-Cuban Grammy-nominated conguero Pedrito Martinez, an encore Afropop Dance Party with Samba Mapangala and Soukous Stars, virtuoso kora player Yacouba Sissoko from Mali, bass master Bakithi Kumalo of Graceland fame from South Africa, and multi-instrumentalist and singer Jake Blount, evoking styles from overlooked African American traditions.

Our partners at Full Moon Resort and Music Masters' Collective are best-in-class for producing multi-day music camp experiences in the U.S., and we are thrilled to partner with them for Camp Afropop. In addition to the music and camaraderie, attendees will enjoy superb cuisine, comfortable accommodations, and let's not forget yoga and massage. Participants in Afropop events and Afropop Tours to Africa become friends for life. We have space for about 100 campers, so don't let this opportunity pass you by. Visit for more information, prices, and to register. If you have questions, email us at or follow leads on the Music Masters' Collective website for contacts: (tel) 845-254-8009.

Thanks again to everyone who made our 35th-anniversary events in D.C. and NYC such joys to participate in! Special thanks to our promotional partners:

Africa-America Institute (AAI)

Gallery Article 15

Wesleyan University

Timothy Bork


DJ Henri

Nkumu Katalay

Jaja Bashengezi

Putumayo World Music

World Music Institute (WMI)

Music Masters Collective at Full Moon Resort, Big Indian, NY

Miracle Corners of the World (MCW)

Tabilulu Productions


Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance

New York African Film Festival

Constituency for Africa (CFA)

AfroDiaspora Global

We invite you to stay in touch and please spread the word about connecting with Afropop (radio shows,, weekly e-Newsletter including our picks of the best in "Upcoming Events NYC," and the Planet Afropop podcast, and more) to your music-loving and dance-loving, Africa- and diaspora-engaged, public media fans, and internationally-engaged folks concerned with critical global issues that define our collective futures—the empowerment of women in the global creative industries, climate change, wise governance, and more.

From everyone at Team Afropop, Viva la musica!

Lubangi Muniania
Lubangi Muniania
Samba Mapangala, center
Samba Mapangala, center
Ngouma Lokito, Nkumu Katalay, Chekedar es Salam, Lubangi Muniania
Ngouma Lokito, Nkumu Katalay, Chekedar es Salam, Lubangi Muniania

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