Music

Join the African Music Caravan from Cotonou to Cuba and Back

Caribbean influence leaves its mark as popular Afro rhythms develop

It’s Sunday night at Aba House, an open-air bar in Lomé, Togo’s capital, and stylish young men and women in modern African dress fill the dance floor as the bass guitarist pumps up the tempo. Powerful! Soulful!

The lyrics are in Mina, a local language in southern Togo and parts of neighboring Benin, but the music is unmistakably Afro-Cuban, a genre with global acclaim.

The weather is cool, the air filled with a misty marine breeze coming from the roaring Atlantic Ocean.

Across the street, onlookers marvel at the colorful dresses and practiced dance moves and watch as patrons nibble on finger food and wash it down with beer, whiskey and soft drinks.

A few minutes earlier, the band had played an up-tempo reggae tune and a highlife rendition of a Christian hymn, but it was the sound of the Afro-Cuban rumba that got people spinning, shimmying and swinging their hips on the now-crowded dance floor.

“This is my father’s bar and we play here every Sunday evening,” George Lassey, the bandleader, told Africa Renewal. “We play all kinds of music: reggae, gospel, salsa and others.”

However, Mr. Lassey says, salsa is “by far the most requested during our live performances.” Continue reading…

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