Tamasha Africana: Central Market Cafe, August 27

Live Shots

Tamasha Africana and the three hoofers at Central Market Cafe
Tamasha Africana and the three hoofers at Central Market Cafe (Photo By John Carrico)

Tamasha Africana

Central Market Cafe, August 27

Few would put "Texas grocery store" and "Central African dance music" together in the same breath, but that's what happened when Austin's own Tamasha Africana performed at the Central Market Cafe. And we're not talking about an ordinary supermarket -- like the fluorescent nightmare depicted so well in Raising Arizona's Huggies scene -- but rather the pride of the Howard E. Butt grocery empire. This cafe of the decidedly blue-blood grocery features delicious eats offered food court style, with good beer on tap, and outside, dancing room, a shaded patio with tables, and intimate stage setup for local talent. In addition to high tech hippies and prototypical soccer families, regular attendees include more modestly funded folks who purchase a few bananas, find a shady spot, and in this case, enjoy the energetic soukous. For those not familiar with the deluxe Central African dance music, imagine call-and-response, slinky-funky tunes with hyperkinetic shuffle-beat meltdowns thrown in for good measure. Fronted by Kenyan natives Jackie Odanga and Ben Simiyu, Tamasha Africana (roughly translated as "African Party") also features Brazilian percussionist Luiz Coutinho De Souza, drummer Kenny Felton, guitarist Brad Shultz, master bassist Glenn Schuetz, and guitarist/bandleader Russ Scanlon. Kicking off their set with the opening trio of songs from their eponymous debut -- "Tamasha," "From Kinshasa to the Sea," and "Kazi (Work)" -- the local sevenpiece hit a stride by the second number, an aquatic lyric poem of Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, featuring the gifts of percussionist De Souza and vocalist Odanga. From that point on, food was a second priority. After a cooling zephyr punctuated a short break, the band launched into yet another groove grenade, with Scanlon delivering melody lines with his old-school, gold-top Les Paul. While many lyrics were in Swahili (with some English), it would have been nice to hear them clearly, not through a poorly placed speaker (another P.A. cabinet was sorely needed). Still, by "Afrika Mokili," halfway through the second set, the dance space in front of the band was again overcrowded, with few if any free seats available on the live-oak-shaded gustatory esplanade. Soukous possesses a magnetic force that directs hips and heads like remote control. By the end, the setting was a grocery store/cafe in name only, for Tamasha Africana transported Central Texas patrons, if only for a little while, to Central Africa. Food for the soul. Or as a line from their title track says: "Life is a banquet, come enjoy the feast."

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