The Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra and the Fufu Allstars in Concert

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Date:
Notes: Each band will play one set. The first set starts at 8 p.m.; doors open at 7:30 p.m.
Admission: Free
Location: The Jazz & Heritage Center
Address:
1225 N. Rampart St.
New Orleans, Louisiana 70116
Phone: (504) 558-6100
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The Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra

The Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra

The Jazz & Heritage Concert Series presents
THE KUMASI AFROBEAT ORCHESTRA & THE FUFU ALLSTARS
Fri., Feb. 15 | 8pm
The Jazz & Heritage Center
Free admission

Two great local bands - the Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra and the Fufu Allstars - will share a bill at the Jazz & Heritage Center this Friday for a night of West African highlife – the uptempo dance music popularized by the likes of Fela Kuti – for a special event as part of the Jazz & Heritage Concert Series.

Admission is free.  The concert starts at 8 p.m. Doors will open at 7:30 p.m. Each band will play one 90-minute set, with the Fufu Allstars going on first. The event is produced and presented by the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. NOTE: This concert was previously scheduled for Feb. 16. The date has changed to Feb. 15.

For fans of the late Nigerian highlife star Fela Kuti, and associated artists like his longtime drummer Tony Allen, Ebo Taylor, King Sunny Ade and Antibalas, this is a show not to be missed.

Both bands have been performing in and around New Orleans since the middle of this decade – since 2014 for the Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra, and since 2016 for the Fufu Allstars. For both, this soulful city with a lifeblood of funky grooves was fertile ground to explore their fascination with the dance music that originated in Ghana in the mid-20th Century, fusing traditional, fiercely driving rhythms with jazzy horns and overlapping guitar lines.

The Fufu Allstars – named for the starchy staple of West African cuisine made from blending cassava and green plaintain flour with water – came together not long after guitarist Sam Dickey moved to New Orleans. A native of Redding, Calif., he was looking for an outlet for the cascading rhythms and melodies of Afropop he had picked up on the East Coast.

“I’d been playing a lot of highlife in New York and I wanted to do it here,” Dickey said. “It seemed like such a natural – because of all the historical connections between New Orleans and West Africa, plus there are so many great horn players here.”

As an added bonus, the percussionist Weedie Braimah – a master djembe player who was born in Ghana and raised in St. Louis – had recently moved to New Orleans. Ditto for Luke Quaranta, the percussionist who co-founded the popular African-inspired band Toubab Krewe and moved to New Orleans at roughly the same time. Together they formed an eight-piece ensemble that uses West African rhythms as a jumping off point for explorations into jazz, gospel, funk, soul and more – much in the way that Fela did.

For the Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra – named for the capital city of the Ashanti region in southern Ghana – it was a similar story. Drummer Logan Schutts is originally from Texas, but he moved around a lot and relocated from Chicago to New Orleans in 2011. That’s where he met Stefan Poole, a native Louisianian who is the singing, alto sax-playing frontman.

“I’ve always been attracted to music that is groove oriented,” Schutts told Where Y’at magazine. “Then I started listening to Fela Kuti a few years ago. I first attempted to play Fela songs when I was in a funk band in Chicago. Over the years, I was able to pick out the patterns of what’s going on with Tony Allen’s drums (who was Fela’s drummer until 1978 and helped him create Afrobeat). Then, for Christmas in 2013 my girlfriend surprised me with a trip to Paris to study with Tony Allen himself that May.

The goal, he said, was to figure out how to emulate “this really great genre of music and continue it but also take it in a new direction and make it our own.”

With as many as 13 band members in the group, the Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra packs quite a wallop.

Both groups have been steadily gaining traction on the local scene. The Fufu Allstars performed last spring at the Congo Square Rhythms Festival (one of the four free, community festivals produced by the Jazz & Heritage Foundation). The Kumasi Afrobeat Orchestra played at Jazz Fest last year and will be at the Congo Square Rhythms Festival on March 30.

The Jazz & Heritage Concert Series is a program of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit that owns the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival presented by Shell. The Foundation uses the proceeds from Jazz Fest, and other raised funds, for year-round programs in education, economic development and cultural enrichment. For more on what we do, please visit www.jazzandheritage.org.

The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival and Foundation, Inc.