Dominic Akena, the national xylophone champion of Uganda, whose story was told in the documentary film, War Dance, will perform with his friend John Okello and the afro-pop band Aphrodesia in a high-powered, horn-driven, foot-stomping, singing & dancing concert that is likely to be the high point of the teenagers month-long visit to America.
Those who saw War Dance at last years Traverse City Film Festival are familiar with Dominics story: the film was made in the aftermath of Ugandas 20-year civil war in which more than 30,000 children were abducted to fight in a rebel army. The Academy Award-nominated film focused on the struggle of refugee Dominic and his friends Rose and Nancy to compete in Ugandas national music and dance festival as representatives of their school in the Patongo Internally Displaced Persons camp.
Kim Gribi, who heads-up the human resources department at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, was so moved by the film that she staged a number of fundraisers last year to bring Dominic and his friend John to the States.
Kim contacted Sean Fine, the director of the film, and asked if there was something she could do to help the children, says Joey Callahan, who is organizing the upcoming concerts. Sean said that she was the first person who had contacted them. It says a lot about her generosity and that of the people of Traverse City, because this film was shown all over Europe and in New York and L.A., and Kim was the only person who came forward to help.
Last winter, Gribi hosted a number of fundraising screenings of War Dance at the Bay Theatre in Suttons Bay, the Elk Rapids Cinema, and at local schools to raise funds to bring the musicians of Uganda to Northern Michigan. A generous donation also came from a private donor. She was able to raise enough funds to bring Dominic and John here, with the assistance of the African Medical Research Foundation.
Over the past few weeks, Dominic and John have been living with a number of families in the region, playing soccer, tennis, fishing, and visiting Mackinac Island. We just love them -- theyre so sweet. I wish they could stay forever, Gribi says.
The teens are also sharing their musical knowledge and learning marimba and Western styles of drumming from music instructor Dave Warne at Sun Radius Music, located at Logans Landing at the south end of Lake Boardman. The music center is filled with drums and exotic instruments from around the world.
Its really beautiful whats happening here, Callahan says. When Dominic got here, he walked in and saw all the instruments and said: I want to learn to play everything! and gave me a big hug.
Callahan, a veteran of the recording, web design and rock music industries, has a special interest in worldbeat and African music. In recent weeks, hes been recording live concerts at his Radius Recording center for local bands, including Soul Patch, Rootstand and Graveyard Tan.
I thought it would be great to put on a concert that Dominic could play in, and saw on the Internet that Aphrodesia were playing a Taste of Kalamazoo and would be close enough to come to Traverse City, Callahan says.
Aphrodesia is a 12-piece dance band from San Francisco which has been getting high-fives from the music press across the country for their blend of afro-pop, funk, dub, Zimbabwean trance, hip-hop and worldbeat. They put on a high-energy show and have opened for Steel Pulse and the String Cheese Incident in addition to performing at many festivals. In 2006, they traveled to Lagos, Nigeria to perform at the countrys legendary Shrine nightclub. They also did a cross-country voter registration tour in 2004 in a bus powered by vegetable oil diesel.
I was worried about being able to cover the charges of a 12-piece band, but then I realized that the Dunegrass was happening at the same time that Dominic was going to be here, Callahan recalls. Working together with the Dunegrass, we were able to bring the band to Northern Michigan.
Dominic and John perform with Aphrodesia on Thursday, July 31 at 9:30 p.m. at Radius Recording, the pyramid-shaped building at Logans Landing in TC, 2074 S. Airport Road. The suggested donation is $10 for the concert. Aphrodesia will also host a dance and drum workshop at 10 a.m. that day with a donation of $20. The band performs at the Dunegrass Festival on Friday, Aug. 1. For details, contact Radius Recording at 231-354-7453, or see www.radiusrecording.com