The dance crowd was humbled and amazed when chart-topping soul sensation Stevie Wonder popped in for a special surprise appearance on November 11th at the weekly club Afro Funke, held on Thursdays at Zanzibar, 1301 Fifth St., Santa Monica.
During Wonder’s surprise appearance, he wailed on harmonica and led the “call and response” vocal gymnastics on African roots/reggae star Rocky Dawuni’s Afro-groove track, “Wake the Town,” according to Zanzibar promoter Cary Sullivan.
Afro Funke starts at 9 p.m. each week, and admission is $5. Club-goers must be age 21 or older to be admitted.
Afro Funke is the brainchild of Dawuni, who believes that Los Angeles was in need of a night dedicated solely to African music, culture and art and its far-reaching impact around the world.
Dawuni is a Ghana native who now lives in Los Angeles.
The night includes resident DJ Jeremy Sole and his “Musaics,” and presents special weekly guests, live performances, dancers, art installations and crafts. Each week, Sole spins his “Musaics,” which are sound collage blends of hip-hop, jazz, funk, dub, reggae, Afrobeat and remixed world beats, pieced together with tribal breaks and augmented through dubbed-out turntable manipulations and live instrumentation.
The material performed was from Dawuni’s upcoming album, Book of Changes.
Also joining Dawuni and his Revelation Project band that night were Rolling Stones percussionist Remi Kabaka and Leon Mobley of Ben Harper’s Innocent Criminals.
Jazz architect Wayne Shorter was spotted in the audience along with a sold-out house of “dazed and ecstatic music fans,” says Sullivan.
Dawuni has long considered the pioneering Nigerian superstar Fela Anikulapo Kuti to be one of his greatest influences. Dawuni seeks to continue Kuti’s tradition of fighting for the rights of the common people through his music.
Kuti died on August 2nd, 1997, but his influence and contributions to music live on. His signature “Afrobeat” sound is an integral component of Afro Funke’s musical focus, according to Sullivan.
“Afro Funke seeks to create a sonic pipeline that will connect funky Africa and the African Diaspora and at the same time, serve as a convergence point for progressive souls,” says Dawuni.
“The intention of Afro Funke is to seamlessly blend the native rhythms of every culture into one groove, reinforcing the fact that we are part of a global family,” adds Sole.
Guest DJs and performers are an integral attraction of Afro Funke’s weekly program.
Past guests and DJs include KCRW’s Garth Trinidad, Rich Medina, DJ Jedi, Zap Mama, Derf Reklaw, Senegalese percussionist Aziz Faye and Greasy Beats percussionist Chuck Prada.
Afro Funke and Zanzibar take a break on Thursday, November 25th, for Thanksgiving, and Afro Funke resumes on Thursday, December 2nd.
Zanzibar has a weekly schedule of dance clubs and DJ nights, including Groove Factory with DJs Oggy, Mitch, DSK and Ayu on Tuesdays; Cultura, heavy soul and rhythms with DJs Rashida, Lisa J, Valida and Issa on Wednesdays; Bossa:nova with DJs Jason Bentley, Jun, Dave Hernandez and Allen Voskanian on Fridays; Quality with DJs Haul and Mason on Saturdays; and One Way with DJs Garth Trinidad and Mr. French on Sundays.
Information, (310) 451-2221.