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Jabali Afrika concert Jan. 31 to kick off

January 26, 2012
 Jabali Afrika
EAU CLAIRE — Kenya's afro-fusion music group Jabali Afrika will kick off Black History Month at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a special performance Jan. 31. The free concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. in Schofield Auditorium.

Jabali Afrika is a multifaceted group with an original sound attributed to a unique mixture and special fusion of African rhythms. Original compositions and traditional melodies come alive on a wide variety of instruments, accompanied by vocal harmonies that form the foundation of modern rock, jazz, gospel and blues. The group's authentic African drumming rhythms, electric guitars, choreography and tribal costumes make for a truly multicultural experience.

"Our music makes you dance, it uplifts the soul and it educates you," says founding member Joseck Asikoye. "You become part of the act, because we kill that barrier between the audience and the band."

The group's fifth studio album, "Mayosi" ("soulful melodies"), draws on traditional East African sounds, including elements of rumba and benga. The music capitalizes on the acoustic guitar skills that band member Justo Otongo learned from his father, who played with many legendary Kenyan musicians in the 1950s and 1960s. The project is the group's most forceful and direct collection of songs to date, written to address the roots and effects of political and economic corruption in Africa. Kenyan radio banned the get-out-the-vote single, "People's Voice" — a musical call for democracy and justice — during the violence that followed Kenya's 2007 election. The album also finds solace from these struggles, in songs with uplifting spiritual messages and tunes that celebrate romantic and familial love.

The group came together in 1993 at the Kenya National Theatre, where some dance troupe members felt unfairly censored and broke away to form Jabali Afrika. They chose the name Jabali because it is Kiswahili (Kenya's national language) for "rock" — a word significant because the group's founders would regularly meet on a large rock to plan and dream about their musical future.

Today Jabali Afrika is Kenya's most-toured band, performing more than 250 shows a year in Europe, Japan and the United States. The group's credits span world music festivals, MTV, BET, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," "Good Morning America," the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, BBC, Radio France International and CNN.

The show is sponsored by the University Activities Commission of the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate.

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JS/DW

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