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African Diaspora celebrates heritage at MAFRIKA Music Festival

Courtenay Brown Special to the AmNews | 6/20/2013, 12:47 p.m.
African Diaspora celebrates heritage at MAFRIKA Music Festival

An abundance of African and Caribbean music, food and culture filled Marcus Garvey Park as people of all backgrounds gathered for the seventh annual MAFRIKA Music Festival on Sunday, June 9. Actor, musician and lyricist Antonio Lyons contributed with his own experiences from Africa as he performed at the free, family-friendly, six-hour outdoor event.

Performing amongst different bands and Artists in genres ranging from hip-hop to reggae, soul and traditional African music, the Miami-raised artist was grateful for the opportunity to bring the beats and soul of his home in South Africa to Harlem, alongside percussionist Adeyinka Adebola.

"I had an amazing time," Lyons said. "It felt very communal. You don't always get a crowd with that energy."

Lyons, known for his roles in "Hotel Rwanda" and "American History X," performed pieces of poetic song from his sophomore album, "We Dance We Pray," which he released in March of 2011. According to Lyons, each song has a specific message and combines African, soul and reggae. He strived for his music to offer a different perspective of South Africa rather than the often negative images presented in the media.

"In the midst of conflict, there's hope. People in South Africa are surviving, getting married and having children," Lyons said. "I wanted my music to be a celebration of all those things."

Sivan Ouedrago, one of the owners of Shrine World Music Venue, a Harlem restaurant and bar that attracts performers from various countries, books the performances for MAFRIKA and approached Lyons to perform at the annual festival.

"[He] told me he loved my energy and that he would love to have me be a part of the festival," Lyons said.

Lyons will continue to bring this energy and the music that he says "criss-crosses" the African continent and globe to Harlem at his next performance at Shrine on Sunday, June 16 at 9 p.m.

For more information, visit shrinenyc.com.