Danny Mekonnen of Debo Band previews this weekend’s Aputumpu Festival in Boston

To kick off this weekend’s Aputumpu Festival in Boston, Danny Mekonnen from Debo Band gives us a preview of what people can expect to see from the city’s vibrant international music community.

Debo Band has had the good fortune to play some incredible festivals at home and abroad, from Bonnaroo and New Orleans Jazz Fest in the US, to the Montreal Jazz Fest and Sauti za Busara in Zanzibar. Festivals offer the best opportunity for both bands and fans of music to be heard and to discover to act, in a focused, compact event. That’s why we’re excited to be able to participate in the inaugural edition of our hometown’s Aputumpu Festival, this weekend in Boston.

The producers of the Aputumpu Festival have created a line-up that reflects the eclectic nature of the local music scene with an emphasis on bands that groove. And this is just what New England needed, our winter was historically brutal with almost three meters of snow (110.6 inches, but who’s counting). Aputumpu is literally bringing the heat to the Middle East, one of the longest running independent rock clubs in this part of the country.

Tonight features a smorgasbord of acts that are at the pulse of the of genre-blurring that we see in Boston, while Saturday showcases the who’s who of African-influenced bands in the area, with five groups that have been making their mark on the local scene.

Led by myself and fronted by charismatic Amharic crooner Bruck Tesfaye, Debo Band has won praise for their groundbreaking take on Ethiopian pop music, which incorporates traditional scales and vocal styles, alongside American soul and funk rhythms, and instrumentation reminiscent of Eastern European brass bands.

The maghrebi funk of Atlas Soul celebrates polyrhythm and melodies rooted in Afro-Mediterranean musical styles, while bringing together musicians with diverse backgrounds that include Morocco, Algeria, and Greece.

One of the largest bands of the festival, Federator No. 1, plays uptempo afrobeat, reggae, and afro-dance music with a pool of players from Berklee, and other globe trotting touring musicians and dancers.

Led by Mozambican native, Helder Tsinine, Kina Zoré seeks to illuminate social issues that impact communities near and far. His songs feature the lyrics and rhythms of social change in the spirit of Fela Kuti, Bob Marley, and Thomas Mapfumo.

Master sabar drummer Lamine Toure has been a mainstay on the New England music scene for over 10 years, notably as an Artist-in-Residence at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he leads drumming ensembles. He wears a different hat as the front-man of Group Saloum, a Senegelese Mbalax band.

*This post is part of our Liner Notes series, where musicians talk about making music.

Danny Mekonnen

Ethiopian-American saxophone player, Danny Mekonnen is the leader of Debo Band.

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