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"Ndabaiwa" from Talking Mbira (Piranha)
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Africa Is Here And Ashkenaz is the place

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East Bay Express, Africa Is Here And Ashkenaz is the place >>

Zimbabwean singer and mbira (thumb piano) master Stella Chiweshe -- one of a scant few African women bandleaders -- brings her ensemble to Ashkenaz tonight, Wednesday, at 9 p.m. to launch African Music Month. Over the next few weeks, half a dozen concerts at the nonprofit Berkeley world-dance club embrace both acclaimed international touring acts and the best Bay Area-based African groups. A commanding figure in her home country, the "Queen of the Mbira" has long used her music to empower righteous underdogs and to highlight social issues, from calling for her country's independence to expanding the roles of women in Zimbabwe and throughout Africa. Chiweshe's lyrics are set to modern and ancient musical styles, using the mbira and other traditional instruments for a lilting, hypnotic sound. On Friday, at 9:30 p.m., the Congo's Soukous Stars play a far different style of dance music. Soukous is built on the rumba rhythm as transplanted to Africa, and the Stars' version of that hybrid is led by guitarist-singers Lokasa Yabongo and Ngouma Lokito. The folk-rooted vocal duo Pape & Cheikh (Wednesday, August 13, 9:30 p.m.) from Senegal are influenced as much by Bob Dylan and other American folk-protest singers as by their own country's music. Pape Amadou Fall and Cheikhou Couibaly write songs on issues of the day -- personal as well as global -- buoyed by dance rhythms. Bay Area-based African Rhythm Messengers mix Caribbean and African styles on Saturday, August 16, at 9:30 p.m. The influential guitarist and leader of Mali's Super Rail Band, Djelimady Tounkara, brings a new group on Thursday, August 21 (9:30 p.m.), for a high-energy night of dance music. The best known locally based Afro-beat band, Kotoja, closes the month long series on Saturday, August 30, at 9:30 p.m.

For information and tickets for Stella Chiweshe and other concerts in the African Music Month series, call 510-525-5054, Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center, 1317 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley. -- Larry Kelp
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