October 16th was National Boss Day. Playing at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis on the 16th of this past month was a band that played for the Boss of the United States when Barak Obama was inaugurated in January of 2008.
Jabali Afrika brought their Kenyan sounds to the Twin Cities playing for an audience of 150 patrons. Many of those attending the venue held a free pass handed out by The Cedar and Kilimanjaro Entertainment in an attempt to engage the surrounding African community of the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood. In fact, 80 percent of the free passes were redeemed.
“Mshale was helping us again,” said Mike Rossetto, marketing director, as he explained the huge jump in numbers from the last time free passes were distributed. “A lot of people were familiar with Jabali Afrika,” Rossetto added, which increased the attendance as well.
“We’re happy that people came. There were a lot of new faces in room,” Rossetto said. “Our plan is to continue offering programming of interest to East and West Africans. We will also continue working with Kilimanjaro Entertainment and other promotion companies.”
The 6-piece band gathered on stage promptly at 8:00, their scheduled show time, opening their own show with well-deserved confidence. Despite the fact that two-thirds of the floor was cleared for dancing, the entire audience either sat in chairs on the periphery or stood at the back of the room.
We listened to Jabali Afrika break the stillness with a spiritual-traditional number that segued into an all-percussion with added voice funk and jazz tune.
Their second number, Sikia Mango Ma Jabali, “Listen to our songs from Jabali” pulled many people to the floor as they moved and grooved straight into the third and fourth songs. The band acknowledged the “legends who came before” they did. “We are the seeds or the fruit of these [artists]: John Mwale and Daudi Kabaka.”
The tribute included a cacophony of sounds: soucous, Caribbean, and the lead guitar’s capo was so high on its neck, it produced a sound like a Hawaiian ukulele. Immediately following, a dj climbed on stage and rapped a short cameo of hip hop.
Half-way through the set, Jabali Afrika played an unusual song, “100%,” with a humorous introduction, gently ribbing American ways of courtship. “African men don’t bring flowers or chocolate or all those other gifts to their women. No, the African man brings his woman a live chicken. He doesn’t believe in dead love…”
The last song of the first set was intended to generate a flurry of dancing. “We wanna get those Kenyan ladies on the floor. If [you] don’t wanna dance to this one, then something is wrong with you.” Many people took the floor as well as a number of women, and a couple men, rising up on stage to dance with the band.
Innocent now took center stage and sang two songs starting off with a shorter number, “I Am a Prisoner” followed by an achingly beautiful Standing on the Mountaintop of Kilimanjaro, which serenaded us for fifteen minutes. Fanaka guested with guitar for these two songs.
A lengthy encore, equal to half the show, completed the gig with a round of patrons who beat on the drum along with percussionist, Justo Otongo, from the band.
Coming up at the Cedar on November 21st, is a showcase of the area’s best Somali singers assembled by Ahmed Ali Egal, and the Somali American Artists Association. This show is especially designed for the East African community. Featured at the event: Ahmed Ali Egal, Roda Abdillahi Jama, Abdihakim Y Hassan, Rahma Ahmed Ali and Basher Mohamed Nagaare.