Get your yaya on as the popular club night Afro Funk√© returns to its home base, Zanzibar in Santa Monica for one night only, Sept. 10 from 9 p.m. till 2 a.m.
Afro Funk√© (that’s funk-AY, not funk-ee) started in the Spring of 2003, when husband and wife team Rocky Dawuni and Cary Sullivan decided to dedicate a club night to African music, culture and art and its far-reaching legacy in Los Angeles.
Sullivan, Dawuni and (now KCRW) DJ Jeremy Sole opened Afro Funk√© at Zanzibar as the DJ outlet to Temple Bar, where Sullivan had been booking live music. It was monthly at first and as it grew in popularity became a weekly event on Thursday nights.
“Afro Funk√© became a mainstay of Santa Monica culture,” Sullivan told me over lunch last week. “We kept it as our baby for more than a decade but as we each became engaged in other aspects of our careers, in 2013 we decided to produce it periodically at other venues.”
Most recently, Afro Funk√© has been staged at UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History and at Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park where, she said, “We could produce it for free for 5,000 people.” (Zanzibar accommodates 400, with a $10 door charge.)
“At MacArthur Park,” Sullivan said, “we brought in two big LA groups, Mexico68, a band from Boyle Heights that plays Afrobeat music, and Buye Pongo that plays traditional cumbia. Both are influenced by African music. Only in LA will you find a Mexican band that plays Afrobeat music!”
Every Zanzibar-based Afro Funk√© club event is like a mini-festival, Sullivan told me. “For example, we’d focus on Brazilian or Central American music, with guest DJs from around the world, fashion shows, art shows, live bands, guest speakers, food events; it was really diverse but always music-centric.”
Co-founder Dawuni has performed at Santa Monica Pier and has appeared twice onstage at the Hollywood Bowl, once with Stevie Wonder. And though he usually hosts Afro Funk√©, he won’t be there this time because of his worldwide touring schedule. He’s just released his sixth album on the Cumbancha label called “Branches of the Same Tree.”
The tour included dates in the U.S. and Canada, Sullivan says, “with a few more U.S. dates. Then he’s on to Iceland, Greenland, Denmark, Germany, Holland and London. He’s really excited about Greenland, it’s his second time; he was the first reggae and African artist to play there. And this is his first time in London, where there’s a large Ghanaian community.”
Dawuni is a U.N. Foundation ambassador to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, and he’ll be at the U.N. General Assembly, speaking on panels and performing. “The Global Alliance started under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,” Sullivan explained, “and now there are something like 200 countries involved. These issues relate to women, the environment and health so it crosses a number of philanthropic platforms.”
The Afro Funk√© party starts at 9 p.m. but goes into full swing after 10. The line circles around the block, so arrive early; there’s a full bar but no food in the club. “We’ll have food trucks and sometimes DJs are on the street entertaining the crowd that’s waiting to get in,” she said, “thanks to the cooperation of The City of Santa Monica.”
Sullivan is proud that Afro Funke “attracts a loyal crowd from all over Southern California, many who’ve come since the beginning. It’s not only all races but all ages (21 and over). You see people who are 21 and people who are 81, people who come with their adult kids. Lots of women come by themselves because they know they won’t be accosted. It’s really almost like church, because you know you’re getting great music in a good environment.”
Zanzibar is on the corner of Arizona Ave. and Fifth Street. For more information visit www.afrofunke.com.
Women Respected and Reviled
This Saturday, August 29 from 3:30 to 5 p.m., join author Barbara Kraft at the Palms-Rancho Park Branch Library for a discussion, “Hannah Arendt and Mary McCarthy: An Unlikely Friendship.”
McCarthy, the American author of “The Group,” which enraged the friends upon whom the book was based, and German-born political theorist Arendt, who coined the phrase “the banality of evil” and took a controversial position regarding the trial of Nazi concentration camp mastermind Adolf Eichmann, wrote letters for 25 years.
From 1945 to 1979, these two celebrity intellectuals shared ideas on politics, literature and morality. Ms. Kraft is the author of “Anais Nin: The Last Days” and “Light Between the Shadows: A Conversation with Eugene Ionesco.”
The event is free; the library is located at 2920 Overland Ave. For more information call (310) 840-2142.
Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various publications.