(GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.) – Former James Brown sidemen Pee Wee Ellis and Maceo Parker team up with Afrobeat superstars Cheikh Lô and Vusi Mahlasela in Still Black, Still Proud, a musical exploration of the give-and-take between James Brown’s funk soul and African music, on Friday night at 8 at the Mahaiwe. A longtime project of Ellis’s, who played saxophone for Brown in the 1960s and wrote and arranged some of his seminal funk hits, including “Cold Sweat,” the tribute is as much about Brown’s influence on contemporary African music as vice-versa.
Funk was the renewal of the African in African-American soul music, making James Brown’s music immensely popular, deeply felt and vastly influential in Africa. Afrobeat, as contemporary African soul and pop has essentially come to be known outside of the continent, is basically unthinkable without the influence that Brown had on such pioneers as Fela Kuti, Youssou N’Dour, and King Sunny Ade.
Hailing from Senegal, Sufi singer-guitarist-percussionist Cheikh Lô recently released Jamm (World Circuit/Nonesuch Records), his fourth album in 15 years. South African singer-songwriter/activist Vusi Mahlasela is known simply as “The Voice” in his homeland. Maceo Parker, who returns to the
Mahaiwe after a gig there in the early oughts, has gone on from the JBs to enjoy a thriving career as a funk-jazz bandleader and sideman to many others, including Parliament-Funkadelic, Prince, and Ani DiFranco. Each is a star in his own right, and together, without exaggeration, they are, as the Boston Globe calls them, “a pancontinental funk-soul supergroup.”
In addition to Ellis, Parker, Mahlasela, and Cheikh Lô, the ensemble includes Fred Ross (vocals), John Mader (drums), Marc van Waneningen (bass guitar), Ray Obiedo (guitar), Peter Madsen (keyboard), Papa Assane M’Baye (percussion), Chad Bernstein (trombone), and Gary Winters (trumpet).
Tickets are $39 to $55. The Mahaiwe is located at 14 Castle Street in Great Barrington, Mass. Box Office Hours: Wednesday through Saturday from noon to 6pm and three hours before show times. For tickets and information, visit the Mahaiwe or call 413.528.0100.