Africa Hotel: popping the tunes of the Sahara in Tel Aviv

Written by
Joy Bernard

The musical hub in the city that never sleeps is rapidly growing, and in recent years seems to increasingly transcend the barriers of the Middle East through the variety of artists and genres that it offers audiences on stages across Tel Aviv. 

But while the usual preferences of locales who are avid music lovers tend to gravitate toward traditional influences, such as mainstream pop-rock groups originating in the US or the UK, the Israeli ear is soon going to be challenged by a fusion of African tunes and Levant vibes in an exciting festival taking place this winter. 

Arriving in the Holy Land for the second time, three-day mini music festival Africa Hotel is going to deliver diverse concerts in hip locations across the city, bringing artists from Nigeria and the US to introduce modern beats from the dark continent to the groove lovers of the White City. 

Tracing back the roots of groove music, all musical acts are crossing continents and styles to perform in Israel for the very first time. Festival producers promise an “international, aerial musical train that will set off from Seattle, make a stop in New Orleans and travel all the way to Congo.” 

The first concert to kick off the fete is by American hip hop duo Shabbaz Palaces, composed of Ishmael Butler and multi-instrumentalist Tendai “Baba” Maraire – considered to be one of the most esteemed groups in the international scene of underground hip hop. 

Africa Hotel

© Victoria Kovios

Shabbaz Palaces is one of the only black music groups that are represented by the renowned Sub Pop label. The pair started producing their hits nine years ago in Seattle, Washington, producing four studio albums that craft a unique sound that mixes between rock n roll, broken beats, African percussions and jazz undertones. 

Shabbaz Palaces will perform at Tel Aviv’s Barby Club on Wednesday, December 13 at 20:30. Tickets:

The second concert slated to sweep Israelis off their feet is by Tank and the Bangas, a cheerful and unique group from New Orleans that merges genres such as punk, soul, hip hop and spoken word. 

Africa Hotel

© Gus Bennett Photography

The musical group was founded by Terriona Ball, one of America’s most sought-after spoken word artists who decided to make the crossover into the musical world alongside backup singer Joseph Anjelika. The two spice up soul, groove, funk and New Orleans jazz melodies with edgy and humorous spoken word which come together in an empowering, uplifting and inspiring feminine act. Their starting point was at a local open mic night that took place in New Orleans every Sunday. Since then, the two, who perform alongside other musicians, have released two studio albums and one live album. They are coming to Israel straight from a European summer tour that spanned over 20 countries and was entirely sold out. They have also recently been named the winning best act by NPR’s international Tiny Desk contest in 2017. 

Tank and the Bangas will perform at Tel Aviv’s Abraham Hostel on Thursday, December 14 at 20:00. Tickets:

The last concert to conclude the African celebration is by KONONO NO1, an African group hailing from the Congolese capital of Kinshasa that was founded by musician Mingiedi Mawangu but only started basking in the international limelight in 2004, when they were picked up by Belgian label Crammed Discs. It was then that powerhouse musicians such as Bjork, Herbie Hancock, Animal Collective and Beck started looking to them as sources of inspiration. 

Africa Hotel

Courtesy of PR

The group is the first in the world to combine traditional Congolese music and electronic elements. To achieve that in Africa during the 1960’s, the band members had to construct their own musical instruments, collecting parts on the streets, in backyards and in dumpsters. The talented African ingenues turned car parts, garbage cans and metal into microphones, percussion instruments and whistlers that they used to concoct their trademark Afro-electro sound. Aside from the divine music, the group helps carry an important and liberating message from Africa to the Western world with lyrics that bash Congolese corruption, the authorities and the government, painting a musical portrait of Africa for decades.  

KONONO NO1 will perform at Tel Aviv’s Abraham Hostel on Friday, December 15 at 20:00. Tickets: 

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