In their first visit to New York this month as part of Globalfest, Jupiter & Okwess, who hail from Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo, stole the show with a frenetic, joyful performance that represented the catholic spirit of the annual event put on by its not for profit namesake organization.
As festival organizers endured its first year operating under the Trump Regime, fans survived a wickedly cold New York night to support artists from around the world who managed to gain visas and share their musical gifts stateside. After years at Webster Hall which is currently closed for renovations, BB Kings in Times Square served as the venue for the 15th annual showcase as artists played the main room and a second stage at Lucille’s as well as across the street at the Liberty Theater. Frontman Jupiter Bokonjdi (in red hat) is long on charisma and his band Okwess plays a fresh and refreshing blend of Congolese, Pan-African, and international styles.
With a locked in rhythm section, Jupiter & Okwess comes off an original amalgam that hits like a very dangerous and uplifting afrofunk band. I couldn’t understand a word their multiple vocalists were singing but I was sure I could get behind it. This band has been around the block a few times and won some fans. A documentary film entitled Jupiter’s Dance was released in 2006 and their most recent album Troposphere 13 included appearances by Warren Ellis and Damon Albarn.
Did I mention their drummer wears a mask reminiscent of Mexican wrestlers!
Other standouts among the dozen artists of Globalfest 2018 were a pair of Paris based acts. The trio Delgres, remarkable for their unusual instrumentation of guitar, drums, and sousaphone, provided unexpected counterpoint to tough bluesy riffs played by guitarist Pascal Danae whose vocal range included a falsetto lilt that recalled Aaron Neville. The Cuban fireball La Dame Blanche nee Yaite Ramos Rodriguez, owned the stage while infecting the crowd with happy feet through Cumbia rooted rhythms that nodded to hip hop and dancehall. She played percussion and flute too!
Here’s a flashback to Globalfest 2016:
And the last shot goes to Jupiter & Okwess members on the street with WFUV evening DJ, my pal Alisa Ali!