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Monday, November 25, 2019

Africa Unite!: A Playlist Inspired By Barber Shop Chronicles

Photo: Marc Brenner
Set in barber shops across five cities on the African content (Lagos, Johannesburg, Accra, Kampala, Harare) and in a major city in its diaspora (London), Barber Shop Chronicles (Dec 3—8 at the Harvey Theater at BAM Strong) explores unfiltered stories about identity, displacement, and black masculinity. Within this rich tapestry of storytelling woven by playwright, poet, and spoken word artist Inua Ellas, is the popular music from the African continent; as the show pivots from city to city, the music—sometimes coming out of a speaker and other times produced by the actors on stage—reorients and guides us from shop to shop, and serves as a joyful and buoyant force in the production.

Just as the men in the six radically different cities are all united by the familiar barber shop, they also all unite to dance, regardless of location. The music they move to is Afrobeats, a contemporary pop sound developed in Nigeria and Ghana in the early 2000s, gaining prominence in the last decade with acceptance by major western artists and record labels. With the massive cultural diversity on the African continent and its diaspora, Afrobeats has several subgenres like azonto (Ghana), gqom (South Africa), and banku music (Ghana and Nigeria), as well as fusion genres like Afrosoca (Caribbean) and AfroWave (UK). Afrobeats has become a sonic bridge linking countries on the continent and people of African descent across oceans, as aspects of African culture have gone mainstream (think Black Panther and a growing interest among Africans in the diaspora keen to retrace their roots to the continent).

Photo: Marc Brenner
To accompany Barber Shop Chronicles, we have created an Afrobeats playlist that exemplifies this growing unification of people of African descent: Each song features collaborations by Black artists from different countries fusing subgenres, languages, and cultures. This was the concept behind BeyoncĂ©’s most recent album The Gift (soundtrack to the new Lion King movie), which includes 20 artists from the United States, Nigeria, South Africa, Ghana, and Cameroon. Also included in this playlist are a few songs of fusion genres like the international hit “Drogba (Joanna)” by Afro B (AfroWave) and Timaya’s “Sanko” (AfroSoca). Enjoy hip hop, dancehall, grime, soca and electro-pop, all with an Afrobeats pulse.

Barber Shop Chronicles will be at BAM Dec 3—8, as part of Next Wave 2019, a season of artists making their BAM debuts.

Akornefa Akyea is the content marketing coordinator at BAM and is a former producer at Afropop Worldwide.
© 2019 Brooklyn Academy of Music, Inc. All rights reserved.

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