Meklit Hadero
Meklit Hadero Photo by Lauren Fior McCaffrey and John Nilsen

In Kenya, June 1 is Madaraka Day, which commemorates the day the country won internal self-rule from Britain—Madaraka being Swahili for the authority to make decisions. In Seattle, the 4th Annual Madaraka Festival is being held on June 24 at the Museum of Pop Culture. Described as a “night of music and purpose,” this all-ages event benefits One Vibe Africa, a grassroots, Seattle-based non-profit that produces music, art, dance, culture, poetry and film programming to empower youth in the Manyatta slum of Kisumu, Kenya.

This year’s theme, “African Music & Fashion,” is designed to challenge the stereotypical narrative that is typically dismissive of fashion and music from Africa. Njuguna WaGishuru of local group The Physics and KING 5 weather anchor Rhonda Lee have been tapped to serve as hosts. On top of a powerful musical lineup, Madaraka 2017 also features a runway fashion show and the premier of Madaraka The Documentary, a film focusing on empowering communities through entrepreneurship and the arts.

Headlining this year’s festival is Chimurenga Renaissance, comprised of Hussein Kalonji and Tendai Maraire. Both are the sons of well-known African musicians—Congolese guitar legend Raymond “Braynck” Kalonji, and Zimbabwean mbira master Abraham Dumisani Maraire. In addition, Tendai Maraire is also one half of the mysterious Seattle hip-hop duo Shabazz Palaces. Apparently, some of that mystique has rubbed off on the description of this group. “Chimurenga Rennaisance were ordained to build a bridge strong enough to span oceans, but doesn’t fall off. Under the waters, they’re waiting with paws each larger than the head of a lion, rows of teeth, and jaws stronger than a Megalodon. Together, they’re the black leviathan, panther of the deep.”

Other performers include Los Angeles-based, Grammy nominated Ghanaian singer-songwriter Rocky Dawuni; local producer-singer-songwriter Otieno Terry; Juba, South Sudan born and former refugee turned international recording artist Dynamq (aka THE SUDANESE CHILD), and San Francisco/Bay Area based, Ethio-American singer, composer, and cultural instigator, Meklit Hadero, who is also the third member of CopperWire (Burntface and Gabriel Teodros), a group that, to use the word of Rakim, "travels at magnificent speeds around the universe."

Providing backing for the performers are Pyramid, the Madaraka Festival’s house band since 2014 which includes members of Kore Ionz, Theoretics, Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band, and Grieves, as well as the stage, studio, and educational production company Big World Breaks, directed by Aaron Walker-Loud.

This year’s collection of dynamic and dedicated performers, artists and producers at Madaraka 2017 look to affirm the vital, yet widely undervalued work of One Vibe Africa, an organization that works tirelessly to “inspire youth toward a deeper appreciation of their culture and traditions."