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African music bonanza invades Boston

Nimbaya!, a female dance and percussion troupe from Guinea, will perform at the African Festival of Boston.
Nimbaya!, a female dance and percussion troupe from Guinea, will perform at the African Festival of Boston.

The most African weekend on the Boston calendar has arrived once again. Friday night’s Bastille Day celebration, presented by the French Cultural Center, has a strong African and global flavor with Congolese superstar Diblo Dibala and opener Sarazino, whose international funk is as unclassifiable as it is enjoyable: It folds in elements from his Algerian roots, his Ecuador home base, and myriad other places.

Kenyan annieSoul (Annette Oduor) will also perform.
Kenyan annieSoul (Annette Oduor) will also perform.

The party continues Saturday with the third edition of the African Festival of Boston (City Hall Plaza, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., free). This upstart event, driven by the local African immigrant community and marshaled by a dogged Congolese activist, Mireille Tushiminina, has turned into a thriving all-day party with crafts, fashion, food, and a strong roster of local and visiting African music and dance acts.

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This year the festival welcomes the Cape Verdean singer Ary Morais, who is sure to draw a large contingent of Boston Cape Verdeans. The thrilling female dance and percussion troupe Nimbaya!, from Guinea, returns on the heels of their Sanders Theatre show earlier this year; they’re dynamic, and represent a remarkable effort to empower not only women’s traditional performance, but also women’s health and economic well-being, back home.

The African Festival also boasts appearances by two members of the dynamic music scene in Nairobi. They are annieSoul (Annette Oduor) and Sara Mitaru; each is a singer-songwriter with her own take on a Swahili, socially neo-soul sound. The Destiny Africa Children’s Choir, from Kampala, Uganda, and Vanga Inanga Rwandan dance troupe add to the East African flavor of this year’s edition. Boston-based acts are showcased as well, including Amoud, who perform traditional Amazigh music from Morocco, Afropop band Koliba, and South African violinist Phakamani Pega.

DJ culture is an integral part of African music today, and it has a place at the festival with a DJ set from Adam Gibbons and Max Pela accompanied by local West African artists on kora and djembe. Gibbons and Pela, who run the regular Uhuru Afrika club night at All Asia in Cambridge, also host the festival’s official after-party at that venue, so that those so moved can carry the African spirit deep into the night.
Siddhartha Mitter