Since 2018, Prince George's County, Maryland in the Washington D.C. area has put on a summer festival called Celebrate Africa! The festival has presented superb national and local talent as well as touring African bands. Of course, this year had to be different, so the organizers put the emphasis on local acts and had them film performances without a live audience.
This year’s three-day event (Sept. 25-27) culminated with a performance by the D.C. Highlife Stars, a community-based band featuring musicians from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Congo and the U.S. Band leader/guitarist Michael Sherikis says the five-year-old group has aimed to “put up the flag for D.C. as a hub for African music.” The band specializes in classic highlife and Congolese music, with the occasional nod to newer styles.
For Celebrate Africa this year, they invited legendary Congolese singer Samba Mapangala, the creator of Orchestra Virunga back in the day, as a guest artist. Mapangala now lives in the D.C. area and so is part of the community Sherikis describes. This video captures Mapangala’s festival set with the D.C. Highlife Stars. Despite the lack of a live audience, the production and audio are terrific. You’ll need to provide your own ambience (for tips on that click here), but we know you’ll enjoy the band’s spirited performance, and Samba Mapangala’s singularly beautiful vocals.