AfriFest, taking place this weekend in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis, is a celebration of Minnesota musicians of African descent.

There is a very cool festival starting up this weekend in Minneapolis called AfriFest ( It’s over in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood with a big concert taking place on Saturday. Stories below cover all of the acts playing at the Afrifest. They are all of African descent and all based in Minneapolis. It will be a very unique community event that hopefully becomes a tradition.

Incognita Set to Rock Afrifest Gala – Sat, Aug 18 @ 11:00 PM

Unique, trippy Afro-based neo-soul…the sound of Incognita is hard to describe in a word or phrase, other than to say it just rocks. The band set to headline the Afrifest Gala at the Cedar Cultural Center have a unique background that spreads across multiple continents and cultural influences.

Taken from Incognita’s Bio and Band Description on MySpace:

“Lead singer and songwriter Iyabo (aka Incognita) was born in England, grew up in Nigeria and has lived in Minnesota for 16 years. The music of Incognita is in a lot of ways the reflection of the blending of sounds and rhythms that results when different cultural sounds are expressed as songs.

Siama Matuzungidi, one of the lead guitars grew up in a rural area of the Democratic Republic of Congo own, and began his professional career at age of 17. Siama’s music is a mixture of traditional music from his home in Mbetani and Soukous music. He plays lead rhythm guitar, and composes and sings in Lingala, Kingo, Swuahili, French and English.

Having one foot in one culture and the other in another culture gives an unconnected yet universal feel to the music so that initially hearing it, it is difficult to categorize, to put in a box. But what is telling about the style of music is it always has a rich rhythm that builds on its African roots. The soulful vocals and steady rhythm always side step interestingly with the music whether on a tune reminiscent of punk rock, or over a Mediterranean melody line.

Incognita is currently working on a debut album: “Is the Sun Out Yet”, due to be released late 2007.”

Incognita will take the main stage of the Cedar Cultural Center at 11:00 PM on Saturday, August 18. Doors are scheduled to open at 6:00 PM with bands playing outdoors in the courtyard starting at 6:30 pm. Five bands are scheduled to play on the main stage starting at 7:00 pm. Tickets cost $10 at the door.

Incognita Links
Incognita MySpace Site
Siama Matuzungidi – A World in Two Cities Bio
Blog Post on Siama – Helen at Mshale

Maria Isa: Rising Puerto Rican Power At AfriFest Gala – Cedar, Sat – 10:00PM

Born Maria Isabelle Perez Vega to Nuyorican parents (los quieros!) and raised on St. Paul’s Westside, Maria Isa was surrounded by music and a large family.

“We’re (the family) the Boricua (version) of the film “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” except we say “Wepa!” instead of “Opa! (partially paraphrased from Isa’s MySpace Bio)”

Growing up and influenced by a wide range of music from Fania and Motown Soul to Old School Hip-Hop, Isa’s music career started at a very early age. As she described her childhood in a recent interview with the Pulse of The Twin Cities Magazine, “I had always been singing and playing Bomba (Afro-Puerto Rican folkloric music) and Plena (news of island through music and dance) since I was 5 years old. I had been hearing it since I was a baby. I picked up hip-hop in the same elements of singing during family gatherings.”

At the age of 7, she was invited on stage with Salsa singer La India and given timbales sticks from the late great Tito Puente. From then she knew she wanted to be reaching others by being in the spotlight and behind a mic.

Maria Isa teaches Boricua history/song/vocal instructions to children at El Arco Iris Center for the Arts in St. Paul, while performing with the folklore group “RAICES“(roots).

Her lyrics flow naturally in Spanglish with strong political convictions, and mix her Puerto Rican background with her Twin Cities environment. It’s best explained by a quote from her MySpace page, “Never forget the pride for our cultura, our language, our movement or else we become descendents! We become lost…. For those who are lost, it’s our duty to respect and educate them towards freedom.“

Describing her role as powerful and positive female voz (voice) on the hip-hop scene, “If you notice, the women who are in it now are being represented as hoes in the videos. There aren’t too many women using their femininity and sexuality in a positive way and not a trashy way. There’s already not that many of us that are out there. We need to start a revolution. B-Girl Be is a revolution. What we need to say is we are here and need to be respected just like any other person.”

Isa will be performing at the AfriFest Gala at the Cedar Cultural Center on Saturday, Aug. 18, at 10:00 pm on the Main Stage. Isa is one of five acts performing at the Cedar, and will be a definite and distinct voice to reckon with. Doors open for the gala at 6:00 PM, and the main stage bands start at 7:00. Tickets for the AfriFest Gala are $10 at the door for five bands.

Definitely check out her songs at MySpace and interview with Pulse before the show.

Munnah Brings Soulful Liberian Hip-Hop to AfriFest – Sat. 9PM @ The Cedar

Energy and focus defines this talented singer, dancer, and songwriter. A refugee from the civil wars that ravaged her native homeland of Liberia, Munnah began her entertainment career dancing and singing as a part of the refugee camp activities in Ghana.

Eventually her family made their way to Minneapolis, where she has continued actively writing and performing. She is absorbed in composing her own version of Hip-Hop music that clearly resonates with the Twin Cities young people and challenges the body to sit still. Munnah in her music keeps her feet planted in both American and Liberian cultures, incorporating soulful American hip-hop influences such as Mary J. Blige and Lauren Hill and challenging the norms of her culture by speaking about the treatment of young women. She is committed to raising the awareness of these actions, and making positive changes where she can.

An example of her blending of cultures can be found on her MySpace website in the single, “West Africa,” where she acknowledges the conflicts of the past years in West Africa, expresses wishes for peace and a love for her people. With her personal history shaped by conflicts and constant movement and a willingness to share her love of a continent, hope and peace could not have found a better spokesperson.

Munnah takes the main stage of the Cedar Cultural Center at 9:00 PM. Doors open for the gala at 6:00 PM, and the main stage bands start at 7:00. Tickets for the AfriFest Gala are $10 at the door for five bands.

Quilombolas Spices Up Afrifest Gala – Saturday, 8:00 PM @ The Cedar

During colonial times the Quilombos of Brazil provided a place of refuge for anyone regardless of background or creed. Quilombolas’ music, infused with vibes of liberty, justice, and equality, establishes a similar musical refuge through its multi-lingual, socio-politically-aware lyrics, driving rhythms, and blending of world musical styles.

As the band’s website describes, “The members have a common love and appreciation for music that grooves, reflecting the fact that the sounds they enjoy all come from Africa and the subsequent African Diaspora. Funk, rock, hip-hop, samba, salsa, reggae, and many other cultural genres are combined with multilingual lyrics representing the spoken languages of the Americas.”

The band cites such inspirations including Ozomatli, Spearhead, and the Police. They’re a great, new sound to hit the Minneapolis scene, and should add a lot of spice to the Afrifest Gala this Saturday evening. Quilombos takes the main stage of the Cedar Cultural Center at 8:00 PM. Doors open for the gala at 6:00 PM, and the main stage bands start at 7:00. Tickets for the AfriFest Gala are $10 at the door for five bands.