SummerStage: Tinariwen, Omar Souleyman, Toubab Krewe

Saturday June 26 3:00 PM

Central Park SummerStage
New York, NY

Energizing rock rhythms and unexpected up-tempo dance beats from Africa and the Middle East will make you rethink party music.

Plagued by warfare and drought, the political and environmental plight of the Tuareg people of the Southern Sahara has been given voice by the electrifying music of Tinariwen. Formed in 1979, the band rose to prominence in the 1980s as the pied pipers of a new political and social conscience in the southern Sahara, becoming icons to a generation of young Tuareg living in exile in Algeria and Libya. In the early 2000s, Tinariwen attracted a following outside Africa, first in the world music community and then in the wider rock scene, thanks to frequent tours and appearances at festivals in Europe and the US. Tinariwen sing about the suffering and exile of their people, the semi-nomadic Kel Tamashek, and about the beauty of their desert home.

Since 1994, Omar Souleyman and his musicians have reigned supreme as a staple of Syria’s dance-folk-pop scene. To date, they have issued more than 500 studio and live recorded cassette albums, easily spotted in the shops of any Syrian city. A ground-breaking musician, Souleyman melds classical Arabic mawal-style vocalization with Syrian dabke (the regional folkloric dance and party music), Iraqi choubi, and contemporary Arabic, Kurdish and Turkish styles. The music often consists of phase-shifted Arabic keyboard solos and frantic rhythms. Oud, reeds, baglama saz, accompanying vocals and percussion fill out the sound from track to track. This performance offers a rare glimpse into Syrian street-level folk-pop phenomena seldom heard in the West.

Toubab Krewe has set a new standard for fusions of rock ’n’ roll and West African music. The North Carolina musicians developed their unique sound over the course of numerous extended trips to Mali, Guinea and the Ivory Coast, where they immersed themselves in the local culture and studied and performed with native musical luminaries. Their seminal new studio album, TK2, is a genre and mind-bending example of what the instrumental group’s “futuristic, psychedelic, neo-griot frenzy” (Village Voice) is all about. Featuring an uber-unique and seamless mix of ancient and modern instrumentation and sounds, TK2 defines Toubab Krewe as “one of the most innovative bands in music today” (Honest Tune).