Afro Roots World Music Festival infiltrates Florida
This article originally appeared in PureHoney Magazine. Discover them here.
What’s going to infiltrate hotspots from Key West to Gainesville with delicious music and positive vibes over the next two months? Hint: it all started in 1999 in a beloved old bar in downtown Miami, and from there it grew like a seedling dreaming of becoming a mighty baobab tree.
If your answer isn’t Afro Roots World Music Festival, Afro Roots Fest for short, then it’s time for a friendly hand to get you out from under that rock. Produced by the Miami-based non-profit Community Arts and Culture, Afro Roots Fest is one of the longest running events of its kind and has featured the likes of Sun Ra Arkestra, Sanba Zao, Salif Keita, Vieux Farka Touré , Toubab Krewe, Danay Suarez, Alsarah and Fatoumata Diawara.
“Afro Roots Fest has always strived to celebrate the evolution of African music and culture in our communities,” Community Arts and Culture Executive and Artistic Director Jose Elias told PureHoney. “We showcase the arts as a tool to educate the public about the importance of understanding and embracing our global diversity.”
What started as an intimate event at Miami’s now defunct Tobacco Road has turned into a live covering weeks and locations from Monroe to Jupiter. And as he has since that eventful first night, he continues to take the gospel of African music and African influences to more and more of Florida.
“This year we are bringing the festival to Gainesville for the first time, in partnership with several branches of the University of Florida School of Performing Arts,” says Elias. “We are also bringing the festival to Hollywood for the very first time through a new partnership with the City of Hollywood, bringing us to a total of five counties that benefit from our diverse programming. It also reinforces our organizational mission by showcasing world-class local, national and international artists who represent our global community.
The mission was enthusiastically supported by participants and local connoisseurs, winning numerous media accolades and funding through the Knights Art Challenge. It is also sponsored by Afropop Worldwide, the long-running public radio hour devoted to contemporary African and African Diaspora music.
South Florida’s unique makeup is the fertile soil from which this incredible event grew and one of the main reasons the music lineup has been able to connect across so many different communities.
“Many of our concerts feature musicians from the Greater and Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean, as well as the Americas,” Elias explains. “Additionally, we also featured legacy and emerging artists from Senegal, Sudan, Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali and other parts of Africa.”
The 2022 festival kicks off the weekend of April 8 at the University of Florida’s Bo Diddley Plaza with the incredible Beninese jazz-fusion family band Jomion & The Uklos, led by Samuel “Jomion” Gnonlonfoun, founder of the famous jazz- fusion held Gangbé Brass Band. They will be joined by UF’s Afro Pop Ensemble and the Pazeni Sauti Africa Choir.
The following night, djembe master Weedie Braimah, a Ghanaian raised in East St. Louis, will be joined by Elias’ own Miami-based Cuban folk band Cortadito and Brazilian band Maca Reggae Samba to close out the launch festivities. in Alachua County.
Afro Roots Fest continues throughout April in Jupiter, Miami Beach, Homestead and Key West before wrapping up in May in Hollywood and Islamorada.
Other artists include Sudanese-American Sinkane who mixes different styles of rock with free jazz and Sudanese pop; Brazilian percussionist Gilmar Gomes; the New Orleans-style Bad Apples Brass Band of South Florida; Miami reggae royalty Johnny Dread; and Daymé Arocena, Afro-Cuban jazz singer and hidden pearl of the genre who recalls the raw energies of La Lupe and Celia Cruz crossed with Aretha Franklin.
So, let’s tie it neatly and neatly with another quick question: what culturally diverse and musical can’t-miss festival are you going to attend this year? That’s right.
The Afro Roots World Music Festival, from April 8 to May 29, 2022. Various locations and times. Please visit communityartsandculture.org/afro-roots.