African Grooves in Asheville: Mandé Foly, Zansa, Toubab Krewe

Upcoming African Music Performances

Friday, 6/12
Mande Foly
5 Walnut
9-12, Free

Wed, 6/24
King Sunny Ade
New Mountain AVL Amphitheater
Doors: 5:00 PM / Show: 6:00 PM
$20.00 – $25.00

 Toubab Krewe


Toubab Krewe creates a sonic Pangaea that lustily swirls together rock, African traditions, jam sensibilities, international folk strains and more. Formed in Asheville in 2005, Toubab Krewe has tenaciously honed their craft through relentless touring and a fierce dedication to carving out a sound of their own. While nearly impossible to put into any box, it takes only a few moments to realize in a very palpable way that one is face-to-face with a true original who recognizes no borders in a march towards a muscular, original, globally switched-on sound.

This is a band that actively draws inspiration from whatever source floats into their purview, something they’ve exhibited in their half decade of heavy gigging, including regular appearances at major U.S. festivals like Bonnaroo, High Sierra, Rothbury and Wakarusa, and abroad at such legendary gatherings as Festival In The Desert in Mali. Their globe-hopping propensity has made them an emerging headliner at their hometown’s famous Orange Peel and a familiar face as similar venues throughout the country.

Toubab carries echoes of African greats like Ali Farka Toure, Orchestra Baobab and Salif Keita, no doubt picked up during the group’s travels to study and live in Guinea, Ivory Coast and Mali. But what truly differentiates Toubab Krewe from other Statesiders inspired by African music is how they innovate on what they’ve learned instead of simply recreating tradition. Toubab Krewe carves out a new trail honoring the African originators they admire by making something alive and contemporary.

The fruits of this hard work can be heard on their latest release, TK2, (September 7, 2010 on Nat Geo Music). What Justin Perkins (Kora, Kamelngoni, guitar, percussion), Terrence Houston (drums), Drew Heller (guitar, piano, fiddle), David Pransky (bass, guitar), and Luke Quaranta (Djembe, Congas, percussion) have wrought on TK2 reflects the many miles and musical journeys that have transpired since their studio debut.





The music of Zansa, a Nouchi slang word from Ivory Coast meaning “combination” or “blend,” is a synthesis of traditional and modern styles of West Africa. The Asheville, NC-based ensemble melds modern afropop with African folk music, African drumming, and the fiery dance-oriented Ivorian street music called Zouglou.

Zansa is led by 33rd generation West African musician Adama Dembele, a native of Ivory Coast, whose family lineage is recognized internationally as “Djembeso” or House of the Djembe. With years of international performing experience, Dembele relocated to Asheville, NC in 2005 to start his own project. With Zansa, he has continued to develop and expand his sound, now singing in multiple languages- French, Baoule, Bambara, and English, creating a multicultural mix of original songs, traditional stories, and impassioned music.

Today, Zansa is taking those traditional African songs and rhythms and incorporating Western instruments, such as electric guitar, acoustic and electric violins, bass, and drum set, offering a wide range of sonic possibilities. The music is rooted in the West African drumming tradition Dembele was born into and blended with a modern approach, lending familiarity to foreign sounds. The result is an original take on the authentic music of West Africa.

Mande Foly


Mande Foly is a collective of musicians & dancers who perform traditions of West Africa, Mande referring to a region which predates national boundaries, and which bridges many smaller ethnic groups together as one. The group features several West Africans, and although they may come from different countries, their ancestry, and a vast repertoire of music & dance, is linked through Mande.

The music of Mande Foly is dynamic and improvisational, rooted in a strong rhythm section. Along with the syncopated harmonies between the kamale n’goni, balafon, guitar, and call & response singing, the music of Mande Foly delivers a hypnotic experience that attracts people of all ages and backgrounds. Lyrics, sung in Bambara and French, delve within topics such as social consciousness, conflict, and love for one another.

The instrumentation of Mande Foly reflects a bridge between past and present times, utilizing predominantly traditional instruments but also including acoustic and electric guitars. The traditional instruments include: the kamale n’goni, a 14-stringed harp-like instrument; the balafon, an instrument related to the modern xylophone; the calabasse, a gourd that has been halved and played with the hands; the djembe, a goblet-shaped hand drum; and dununs, cylindrical drums played with sticks.

The following African artists are part of the greater collective known as Mande Foly: Arouna Diarra (n’goni & balafon; Burkina Faso), Adama Dembele (calabasse & djembe; Ivory Coast), Barakissa Coulibaly (percussion & dance; Ivory Coast), and Moussa Kone (guitar; Ivory Coast). Notable westerners that have played with Mande Foly and that are part of our “extended family” include: Ryan Reardon (bass; Zansa), Patrick Fitzsimons (guitar; Zansa), Biko Casini (calabasse & djembe; Rising Appalachia) Drew Heller (guitar; Toubab Krewe), and Justin Perkins (n’goni & kora; Toubab Krewe), among others.

“Mande” refers to the Mandingue region of West Africa. “Foly” means, “to play.”

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