Sounds of Africa at the Cedar
"African Summer" at the Cedar Cultural Center is unfurling the multifaceted splendor of that continent's music during the month of July, culminating in four gigs over an eight-day span that feature an open dance floor and an array of energetic catalysts.
First up is Femi Kuti, eldest son of the legendary, incendiary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, who has modernized the bumptious brass-'n'-beats and fiery politics of his late father while holding onto their essence and becoming an established star in his own right. (8 p.m. Fri., Cedar, $50-$55.)
A disciple of a different sort, Pape Diouf has followed in the footsteps of his fellow Senegalese native Youssou N'Dour in blending traditional griot, shout-song vocals with the percussion-heavy grooves of mbalax. Utilizing lead, rhythm and talking drums, mbalax roams across everything from salsa to zouk to Congolese rumba and American funk with polyrhythmic glee. With his creative transformation of Andrea Bocelli's grandiose ballad "Con te Partiro," into a spunky mbalax called "Partir" a few years back, the 43-year-old Diouf has been among the leading contenders to inherit the mantle of "King of Mbalax" from N'Dour. (7:30 Mon., Cedar, $15-$20.)
While Fela Kuti represented the frenetic strife of Nigerian music and culture, King Sunny Ade bathed the ears of dancers with the suave, beguiling, silken serenity of his Nigerian "Juju" music. Via a series of indelible, influential American performances in the 1980s, Ade changed the way African music was perceived and received in this country. Now two months short of 70, he remains a regal, beatific and undeniably charismatic presence on vocal and guitar while his band provides the compelling undertow. (7:30 Wed., Cedar, $35-$40.)
It's fitting that African Summer closes with a uniquely creative, up-and-coming ensemble like Krar Collective from Ethiopia. It is named after the six-string krar, which looks like a mixture of lyre and harp, electrified (in more ways than one) in the hands of Temesegen Zeleke into bent blues notes and wah-wah-inflected flourishes along with traditional chording. Add in the high, tremulous vocals and hand claps of Genet Asefa and the resonant beats from the double-headed kebero drum by Grum Begashaw and the result is music that manages to be both dense and spare, and full of life. (8 p.m. Fri., July 22, Cedar, $18-$20.)