Live Concert Photography: Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at the Prospect Park Bandshell 6/8/19: Ibeyi with Sudan Archives
Although it’s gone through a number of different names throughout it’s 41 year history, the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is one of the longest run, summer outdoor concert and performance series in New York. And from its first shows, the festival’s long-held mission has been to bring Brooklyn residents — and those who love and enjoy all things Brooklyn — together in a safe, harmonious setting to enjoy and celebrate the vibrant cultures that has made Brooklyn, one of the most most diverse places in the world; in fact, as the organizers have strongly emphasized, “We believe it is especially important to use artistic platforms to reaffirm the very basis of what Brooklyn and America is — a welcoming, supercollider of ideas and cultures, informing and enriching each other. ”
Throughout the Festival’s history, the Prospect Park Bandshell has hosted an eclectic list of established and emerging artists across a large and adventurous array of styles and genres, including Americana, African music, world music, classical music, jazz, pop, alt-rock, indie rock, hip-hop, soul, R&B and a long list of others. And as a result, the bandshell has had an impressive array of artists play on its stage including, Dr. John, Maceo Parker, They Might Be Giants, The Neville Brothers, Talib Kweli, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Beck, Hugh Maskela, Joan Armatrading, Willie Nelson, Chaka Khan, Angelique Kidjo, Seun Kuti, Mavis Staples, Marco Benevento, Bilal, Lisa Loeb, Poliça, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Alice Smith, Brooklyn Raga Massive, The Soul Rebels, Orkesta Mendoza, Musiq Soulchild, Robert Randolph and The Family Band, Eric Krasno, Yossou N’Dour, Amadou and Mariam, Brandi Carlile, Ruthie Foster, the acclaimed Canadian jazz act BADBADNOTGOOD the up-and-coming Canadian singer/songwriter and JOVM mainstay Charlotte Day Wilson and recently, the iconic R&B and soul legend Patti LaBelle.
Earlier this past month, Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival at Prospect Park Bandshell hosted the internationally acclaimed Afro-Cuban electro pop duo and JOVM mainstays Ibeyi, Sudan Archives, the Sudanese fiddle music, R&B and electro pop-inspired solo recording project of the Cincinnati-born, Los Angeles-based, violinist, vocalist and producer Brittney Parks and Orion Sun, the solo recording project of New Jersey-born, Philadelphia-based vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and producer Tiffany Majette. (Unfortunately, because of some commuting issues — thank you, MTA — I wound up completely missing Majette’s set. Hopefully, I can catch her when she’s next in town.)
Deriving their name from the Yoruba word for twins ibeji, the French-Cuban twin sibling duo Ibeyi (pronounced ee-bey-ee), comprised of Lisa-Kainde Diaz and Naomi Diaz have become JOVM mainstays and a critically applauded, internationally recognized act. The Diaz Sisters can trace the origins of their musical career to growing up in a musical home — their father, was Anga Diaz, best known for his work as a member of the acclaimed Buena Vista Social Club for collaborating with Ibrahim Ferrer, Ruben Gonzalez and Compay Segundo. Anga died when the Diaz Sisters were both 11 and upon his death, they studied Yoruba folk songs and the cajon, an Afro-Carribean drum, which their father had specialized in throughout most of his musical career.
While Yoruba is primarily spoken throughout Nigeria and Benin, the language has been spoken in some fashion in Cuba since the 1700s when the slave trade brought Africans to the Caribbean — and to the island nation. Interestingly, when the Diaz Sisters began studying their late father’s musical culture and heritage, it gave them a deeper understanding of their father as a man, but more important it also put them in touch with their ancestral history.
The Diaz Sisters’ 2015 Ibeyi self-titled debut was released to critical praise and thematically, the album dealt with the past — the loss of their father, their relationship with each other, their father’s and their own origins and roots. Sonically, the album found the duo meshing elements of contemporary electro pop, hip-hop. jazz, the blues and traditional Yoruba folk music in a way that brought to mind Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective‘s Roots Before Branches. 2017 saw the release of the duo’s sophomore album Ash through XL Recordings. The album’s material found the Diaz Sisters writing material that’s firmly rooted in Afro-Cuban culture and history while thematically being some of the most visceral, politically charged material they’ve written to date. Unsurprisingly, the material touched upon the issues of race, gender and sexual identity that have long been at the core of our most vexing sociopolitical issues.
The duo’s headlining set at the Prospect Park Bandshell focused on their first two albums along with a handful of new songs.
Brittney Parks is a Cincinnati, OH-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, violinist and producer, who messed around with various instruments until she began playing violin when she was in the fourth grade. Besides a year of musical training, Parks is essentially a self-taught musician, who learned by playing from ear in her church’s choir. As the story goes, when Parks turned 17, she told her mother that she didn’t like her birth name; in fact, Sudan was a nickname that Parks had adopted.
Parks’ solo recording project Sudan Archives draws from R&B, experimental electronic music and her hometown’s electronic music scene, which sparked her interest in making beats and production. When she relocated to Los Angeles, Parks began learning about traditional Sudanese music. When the Cincinnati-born, Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter, violinist and producer discovered the violin style of Northeast Africa, her eyes ere opened to new possibilities of the instrument. “The way they played it was different from classical music. I resonated with the style, and I was like, ‘Maybe I can use this style with electronic music,'” she says.
Fusing of traditional folk music and electronic production was a major turning point for the Cincinnati-born, Los Angeles-based artist. . “I started mixing my violin into beats,” she says, “It wasn’t complicated — I’d just sing straight into the iPad.” After studying music technology, she honed her DIY-production style. Interestingly, a chance encounter with Stones Throw A&R and Leaving Records owner Matthewdavid at a Low End Theory party wound up with her signing with Stones Throw Records, who released her self-titled debut EP.