The Cedar launches an African summer


Amadou & Mariam

Photo courtesy of The Cedar

Eight major bands from the African continent will grace The Cedar‘s stage from June until August, starting tonight.

Here’s the line-up:


VIVIANE N’DOUR and the JOLOF BAND – June 20th, 7:30pm

ORCHESTRE POLY-RHYTHMO – July 10th, 7:30pm

THE JOHNNY CLEGG BAND – July 12th, 7:30pm

WAKE UP MADAGASCAR – July 13th, 7:30pm

SPOEK MATHAMBO – July 19th, 8:00pm

SMOD – July 31st, 7:30pm

AMADOU & MARIAM – Aug 7th, 7:30pm

The Cedar’s Executive Director Robert Simonds says one of the driving forces behind the concert series is the unusual availability of a large number of touring bands from Africa this summer.

There are a few forces behind this, but undoubtably the main one is that more North American summer rock festivals have increased their interest levels for these kinds of bands. These festivals are not just interested in the younger bands that are more influenced by rock and hip-hop such as Spoek Mathambo and SMOD, but also some of the more “classic” artists like Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo and Amadou & Mariam. So that’s the starting point: there are simply many more African bands touring the U.S. this summer than usual.

However, that would normally not be enough, since we generally adopt a much more conservative booking policy during the summer months here. We see our “season” as mirroring the academic calendar, so summer bookings are usually “special events.” However, last year we upgraded our 1948 air conditioning system, which means we can finally offer a more reliably comfortable space for summer shows. So the first types of shows that we’re more willing to open up for are the ones which most directly speak to our mission “to promote inter-cultural appreciation and understanding through the presentation of global music and dance.” And now we have a bit of a reputation to live up to, having been voted “Best World Music Venue” in the world by

So that would be all of the rational and official reasons for booking eight African shows during the summer months. But of course, there’s also the OMG factor. I don’t know if/when we’ll have the opportunity to book a lot of these bands again. We’ve been chasing Amadou & Mariam for five years, for example, in partnership with Philip [Bither] at the Walker and Sue McLean. The Wake Up Madagascar awareness concert is just too cool (and important) to pass up. And thanks to a special relationship with her U.S. agent, we’re one of the few U.S. venues that was even offered a show by “the Queen of Mbalax,” the trad/pop hybrid music from Senegal, Viviane N’Dour. You can’t say no to a Queen!

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