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Lineup spans many countries, genres

By Siddhartha Mitter
Globe Correspondent / July 15, 2011

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Immigrants, expatriates, refugees, and the American-born next generation - the lineup for the African Festival of Boston tells any number of migration stories. From Congolese siblings making gospel music in Canada to top Ghanaian dancers living in New Hampshire, the program - which also features classic Afropop and shimmering club-style R&B - presents a snapshot of African cultures in a world of contact and flux.

Akwaaba Ensemble. From his perch in New Hampshire, Ghanaian drummer Theo Martey leads this strong traditional percussion and dance ensemble. The seven members include veterans of Ghana’s most prestigious dance companies and classic highlife bands like the Sweet Talks.

Naomi Achu. Maryland-based Achu is a cosmopolitan polymath: A gifted rapper and poised R&B singer, she was born in Cameroon and raised there and in the United Kingdom before coming here. Unabashedly pop with an inspirational streak, her sound finds a balance between African dance-floor exhortations and a global club feel.

Gael Amour. Zouk, the smooth dance pop of the Caribbean that is popular in French-speaking Africa, pervades the sound of Gael Amour - and specifically “zouk love,’’ the ever-popular slow-jam variety. Amour, who is based in Maryland and originally comes from Gabon, will romance you in multiple languages.

Krystaal. Gospel and other Christian music is ever on the rise in African communities. The three Congolese brothers who form Ontario-based Krystaal have performed for huge audiences on the continent and in the diaspora. Their own story - fleeing violence in southern Congo, they lived five years as refugees before being reunited in Canada - adds to their message of inspiration.

Rumbafrica. A veteran presence on the Boston African scene, Congolese guitarist and choreographer Tshibangu Kadima launched Rumbafrica almost 20 years ago. The band’s lineup has changed over the years, but its agenda is steadfast: to perform Congolese rumba and soukous, with its sweet Lingala lyrics and relentless progression toward thrilling guitar-driven dance paroxysms.

Offiong Bassey. The Nigerian-American singer-songwriter, based in the Boston area, is equally at ease with a cappella, R&B, funk, Afrobeat, and gospel music, with a deep and emotive voice imbued with a soulful presence.

Kina Zori. An elegant addition to the Boston world-music scene, singer-guitarist Helder Tsinine’s band plays a folky Afro-pop based in rhythms and melodies from his home, Mozambique; the horn section and percussions (traditional and drum kit) add muscle and thicken the grooves.