Continuing the 11-day Ashkenaz anniversary celebration, “40 Years Dancing for Peace,” tonight we present two world music bands from about as far apart in the world as one can get: the African-rooted Babá Ken & West African Highlife Band, plus Hawaii’s Leche de Tigre, who play what they term “Latin Gypsy funk.”
Babá Ken Okulolo has been an integral part of the Ashkenaz community for… well, let’s let him explain: “Ashkenaz has been our home base for 27 years. David Nadel (the late founder-owner) always supported live African music, and the Center has kept up his commitment. It’s where our longtime fans have a chance to come and dance up close – some even jump on stage with us! Ashkenaz is the people’s house, and it brings us together across all dividing lines between nations and ages.”
Okulolo launched the West African Highlife Band in response to a request by Nadel for a band to concentrate on Ghanaian and West African highlife dance music and rhythmic styles. With master musicians from several West African countries and the United States, the band draws on folk traditions combined with modern stylistic elements, played with acoustic and electric instruments, and revives the infectious classic highlife dance hits of Ghana and Nigeria.
Okulolo first came to the U.S. as part of King Sunny Ade’s band, and he was also the bassist in Nigeria’s seminal Afro-rock group Monomono. Since moving to Oakland in 1985, he has created a stable of African bands including Kotoja and the Nigerian Brothers. Along with Okulolo, the West African Highlife Band features Soji Odukogbe, lead guitarist in Fela Kuti’s Egypt 80 band; Liberian trap drummer Lemi Barrow; Pope Flyne, lead singer of Ghana’s Sweet Talks; Rasaki Aladokun from Sunny Ade’s band; and, health permitting, member emeritus Nii Armah Hammond, founder of Ghana’s Hedzoleh Soundz.
From island hula music to the wave of slack key guitarists and on to reggae, Hawaii has been a wellspring of musical surprises. Now comes Leche de Tigre, a band from Kona, Hawaii, whose instrumentation is as eclectic as its stylistic approach Playing nylon-string guitars, drums, cello, and trumpet, its sound laced with rock influences, Leche de Tigre makes music that is both buoyantly new and dance-inducing.
Leche de Tigre (Spanish for “Tiger’s Milk”) sprouted from a weekly acoustic jam session in the back of Ceviche Dave’s restaurant in Kona. The musically adventurous and jovial gatherings explored exotic flavors of Latin, Gypsy jazz, rock, Afro-Cuban, and classical styles. Within months, the jam became an event in itself, with a growing audience coming to enjoy the unusual and infectious music. From there the group moved to larger audiences in theaters and festivals. The touring band is guitarist-singer Dan Brauer, guitarists Lukas Lessa and Dave Weaver, drummer Craig Miller, bassist Robby Malovic, percussionists Ruben Ruiz and Joe Marcelin, singer Lee Motter, trumpeter Michaeloha Elam, and Jing Jing Tsong on cello and melodica.
When & Where
Ashkenaz is the East Bay's home to world music & dance... established 1973; nonprofit since 1997. We are always all ages! Kids 12 & under are admitted free unless otherwise noted.
All of our online ticket sales are will call. We will have a list of ticket buyers at the door; you do not need to bring a printout of your ticket/order confirmation.
Doors open 30 minutes before showtime, or 30 minutes before the dance lesson if there is one, unless otherwise noted.
Ashkenaz's Café opens when doors open and offers beer (draft and bottled), wine, kombucha, juices, sodas, coffee and tea, and snacks and light meals (all vegetarian, mostly organic).