Ifrikya Spirit

Tranced-out diwan sounds from Algiers, gathered under a big musical tent                       

In Algeria, cultures of city dwellers and Arabic speakers, Amazigh villagers and Saharan oases, Al-Andalus and French colonials meet, separate and recombine. Ifrikya Spirit stakes its expansive musical tent where West African instruments are welcomed and enjoined with global sensibilities. Eclectic and elemental, Ifrikya Spirit is "a stand-out with a unique sound at the melting point of new composition and instrumental abundance, with messages of peace and inter-African solidarity, all rooted in the rituals of the diwan." (Algerie Presse Service)

U.S. DEBUT WIth center stage

ON TOUR September 29-October 26

tour overview

Burlington, VT –  September 29-October 1

  • Ifrikya Spirit starts their tour in Burlington, Vermont. In addition to fall foliage sightseeing, the band will make their U.S. debut at the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts on September 30th. Information here.

Washington, DC – October 3-4

  • Ifrikya Spirit makes their way to Washington, D.C. for their welcome at the State Department and a tour of the nation’s Capitol.
  • The band performs at the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage on October 4 at 6pm. The free performance will be webcast live and available for streaming on demand from the Kennedy Center website. Information here.

New York, NY – October 5-9

Minneapolis, MN – October 11-12

  • Ifrikya Spirit will be hosted by the Cedar Cultural Center while in Minneapolis.  On October 11th the band will gather with the Somali Collective Waayaha Cusub for informal house concert sets.
  • They perform at the Cedar Cultural Center on October 12th at 7:30pm. Information here.

Red Wing, MN – October 13-16

  • Sixty miles west of the Minny Apple, Red Wing’s Sheldon Theatre has put together a great three-day residency including a Master Class, a performance for high school students, a jam session hosted by Mike Arturi, a community pot-luck dinner hosted by a local church, and a kayaking adventure down the Mississippi River with the Environmental Learning Center.
  • Their residency culminates in a performance at the Sheldon Theatre on October 15th at 7:30pm. Information here.

Gainesville, FL – October 17-19

Miami, FL – October 21

Yakima, WA – October 23-26

  • Ifrikya Spirit ends their U.S. tour in Yakima, Washington, center of the nation’s largest apple growing region. The Capitol Theatre’s residency includes a visit with the student musicians at YAMA on October 24. On October 25th the band will perform in the morning for 6th grade students, and then host a public jam with local musicians at the 4th Street Theatre.

program notes and bios

Ifrikya Spirit
Algiers, Algeria

U.S. debut tour as part of Center Stage

Chakib Bouzidi        Band leader, Vocals, Gumbri, Gnibri, N'goni, Percussion
Rafik Kettani            Soussane, Vocals, Percussion
Meziane Amiche      Vocals
Reda Mourah           Piano, Keyboards
Nazim Bakour          Guitar
Hafid Abdelaziz        Drums
Samy Guebouba      Bass


About Ifrikya Spirit

When musicians from 42 African countries converged on the Algerian capital, Algiers, in 2009 for the Pan-African Festival, it was a major event. For the members of Ifrikya Spirit, it proved a major turning point in their creative lives. The visiting musicians went home, but they left a plethora of instruments behind. “There were lots of instruments like the balafon and the kamala ngoni, lots of traditional West African instruments,” recalls Chakib Bouzidi, Ifrikya’s inventive founding member. “We started to play around with them. It went so well, we decided to create a band, and we called it Ifrikya Spirit. Our goal is to play all sorts of music, like salsa, blues, and reggae, but with an African spirit.”

Ifrikya Spirit underpins these musical conversations between African musics and global forms with the spiritual and cultural expressions of Algeria – notably the diwan. The Arabic derived word diwan is an encompassing, all embracing term made manifest throughout North Africa’s Maghreb and Saharan regions. At its simplest, it describes a gathering – of people in a community council, a set of customs, practices or celebrations, a compilation of poems; and the term is inclusive also of the types of expressions created for these gatherings – the music, poetries, foods, religious practices, etc.

In music, rhythms and techniques, percussion tones and responsive choruses, fleet strings and ornamented song are all aspects the sound of diwan, but not completely. With gatherings often held in homes, among family and friends, it proves fertile ground for experimenting, for reimagining. “We take diwan music and approach it in a different way, to make it accessible to as many people as possible,” explains Ifrikiya bassist Samy Guebouba. “We have traditional instruments, but we also have a drummer, bassist, and keys.” Like many performers and composers before them, Ifrikya Spirit is spurring their Berber roots to explore and share new sounds and forms. 

Ifrikya Sprit is making its debut tour in the USA from September 30-October 26 as part of Center Stage with stops in Burlington VT, Washington DC, New York City, Minneapolis and Red Wing MN, Gainesville and Miami FL, and Yakima WA.  

Center Stage (www.centerstageUS.org) invites performing artists from select countries overseas to the United States to perform and conduct engagement activities.

Launched in 2012, by the close of the 2016-2017 season, 24 ensembles from Algeria, Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan, Tanzania, and Vietnam will have toured the United States, focusing on interactive engagements in diverse cities and towns across the country. Each group undertakes independent, month-long tours around the country to perform, interact, begin meaningful dialogues with Americans, and share these experiences with friends and fans at home. Center Stage artists perform and engage with audiences onstage and online providing positive and popular avenues of engagement to build mutual understanding through shared culture and values.

Ifrikya Spirit’s US debut tour continues through October 26. For more information visit www.centerstageUS.org

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc

Keep up with Center Stage and find additional information at www.CenterStageUS.org, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/CenterStagePage), and Twitter (@CenterStageUS).

Ifrikya Spirit Center Stage Tour Staff

Denise Wilcke Company Manager
Robert W. Henderson, Jr. Technical & Production Coordinator

background

Pan-African Diwan: Ifrikya Spirit Stirs the Funky Soul of Mama Africa With Algerian Grooves and West African Instruments

Diwan is food, fellowship, song. Its sound invokes trance, and praises and calls on the Prophet, the saints, those who have gone before. Its music is passed down from master to disciple, via seemingly simple instruments that taunt in their complexity.

It’s an ever-new source of inspiration for Algeria’s Ifrikya Spirit. Like many performers and composers before them, the Algiers six-piece is spurring their Berber roots to yield new sounds and forms, by opening the conversation between the Maghreb and West Africa, creating an innovative musical creole with diwan at its core.                    

Fronted by a transfixing, gritty vocalist, and grounded by not one but two guimbri (three-stringed, skin-covered basses), the band’s multi-instrumentalists play with the nimbleness of a jazz ensemble and the earthy passion of a hard-hitting roots group. Diwan’s undulating rhythms shift over a plucked low-end groove and artful drumming (“Ngoni Diwan”). Sax floats over call-and-response choruses and a conversation between Algerian guimbri and Malian ngoni (“Bambara”). Funky, upbeat anthems to Africa (“Afrika”) alternate with bass-studded, swirling invocations (“Selmani”).

Ifrikya Spirit will make its American debut when it pitches its pan-African musical tent in the U.S. in 2016 under the auspices of Center StageSM, an exchange program of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts. From July-December, Center Stage will bring five ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania to the U.S. for month-long tours. Residencies will include performances, workshops, discussions, people-to-people exchanges, and community gatherings. Keep up with Center Stage on Facebook and on Twitter and at www.centerstageUS.org.

Ifrikya Spirit’s unexpected embrace of Africa writ large started in serendipity. When musicians from 42 African countries converged on the Algerian capital, Algiers, in 2009 for the Pan-African Festival, it was a big deal. For the members of Ifrikya Spirit, it proved a major turning point in their creative lives.

The visiting musicians went home, but they left a plethora of intriguing instruments behind.  “There were lots of instruments like the balafon and the kamala ngoni, lots of traditional West African instruments,” recalls Chakib Bouzidi, Ifrikya’s inventive lead guimbri player and founding member. “We started to play around with them. It went so well, we decided to create a band, and we called it Ifrikya Spirit. Our goal was to play all sorts of music, like salsa, blues, and reggae, but with an African spirit.”

They plumbed a groove-driven sound that shouted out the rarely explored connections between West and other Sub-Saharan African music, and the spiritual and musical traditions of Algeria. “It’s a surprising thing for Algerians to do, to use these instruments. We’re unique,” comments Bouzidi. “We learned from the masters who stayed here in Algiers, and learned the basics from them. After that I kept in contact with them, and I practice and watch videos to learn more. They are the same family, ngoni and guimbri. They use a lot of the same rhythms and techniques of playing.”

These rhythms and techniques flow from Algeria’s diwan traditions. Percussion and responsive choruses, fleet strings and gorgeously ornamented song define the sound of diwan, but not completely. Though strongly tied to music, diwan includes the entire range of celebration and religious observance, from food to movement. Often held in homes, among family and friends, it proves fertile ground for experimenting, for reimagining. “We take diwan music and approach it in a different way, to make it accessible to as many people as possible,” explains Ifrikiya bassist Samy Guebouba. “We have traditional instruments, but we also have a drummer, bassist, and keys.”

Guimbri is not simply a flavor that can be added easily to a tune. Getting guimbri and bass to play nicely together has been one of the group’s thrilling technical feats, as the plucked thump of tradition moves in counterpoint to the smooth thrum of metal strings. To further complicate arrangements, guimbri is a demanding instrument with many subtleties.

Bouzidi spent years studying it and developing his own style, before he decided to combine it with other African elements. Like many young people of his generation in Algeria, he came to professional music only after the Dark Decade of political terror that afflicted his country in the 1990s came to an end. He was a percussionist first but joined the group of maalam (master) Benaïssa, a virtuoso of the guimbri. From him, Bouzidi learned how to play the instrument and its repertoire. After the African festival and his discovery of new instruments, he found a new way to use his distinctive style on the instrument with Ifrikya.

Though the band plays with and speaks to the intersections of Africa’s many musics, Ifrikya Spirit honors the heart and soul of diwan: the spiritual aspects of the music and its role in shaping society. “The spiritual dimension in our society is still very prominent, still an important part of people’s lives,” reflects Guebouba. “And I’m not sure if people really want to change that. It’s not about being purely religious, it’s a spiritual thing. It’s up to everyone to live out his spirituality. For us, it’s important to keep this. It’s what gives sense to diwan music, and to our music.”

About Center Stage

Center Stage (www.centerstageUS.org) invites performing artists from select countries overseas to the United States to perform and conduct engagement activities.

Now in its third edition, five acclaimed contemporary music and theater ensembles from Algeria and Tanzania will travel to the U.S. between July and November, 2016; two bands from Pakistan will tour in the spring of 2017. Each group undertakes independent, month-long tours around the country to perform, interact, begin meaningful dialogues with Americans, and share these experiences with friends and fans at home. Center Stage artists perform and engage with audiences onstage and online providing positive and popular avenues of engagement to build mutual understanding through shared culture and values.

Each tour includes a range of community engagement activities, such as performances, workshops, discussions, artist-to-artist exchanges, and community gatherings.  To date, 17 ensembles from Haiti, Indonesia, Morocco, Pakistan and Vietnam have toured the United States, focusing on interactive engagements in diverse cities and towns across the country.

Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

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downloadable photos, billing & crediting information

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Ifrikya Spirit
On tour as part of Center Stage

Credit Info
The following credit is required on the title page in all printed performance programs. We appreciate its use wherever else it's practical: brochures, posters, ensemble-only promotional materials, press releases, advertisements, etc:

The presentation of (name of ensemble] is part of Center Stage, a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, administered by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. Center Stage Pakistan is made possible by the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. General management is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc. 

Center Stage logo placement is greatly appreciated. On web-based materials, please link from the Center Stage logo or written name to www.centerstageUS.org.

Download a zipped folder with high resolution promotional photos and color and black and white versions of the Center Stage logo here.