Afro-Carib Group Evokes Sounds of Home

A concert in Morrisania in the Bronx by the music group Ilu Aye – which means “drum of the world” in the West African language of Yoruba – was more than just a performance, reports Hunts Point Express‘ Shanice Carr. Rooted in the music of the African diaspora, especially from the Caribbean, the percussion sounds of the group mesmerized Caribbean and Latino audience members, who praised the band’s fusion of genres and the whiffs of nostalgia the beats brought back.

Ilu Aye intertwines African and Caribbean sounds. (Photo by Shanice Carr via Hunts Point Express)

Ilu Aye, performing at the Bronx Music Heritage Center, intertwines African and Caribbean sounds. (Photo by Shanice Carr via Hunts Point Express)

The July 18 performance at the Bronx Music Heritage Center started three days of cultural events that centered around the Caribbean and the Bronx.

Ilu Aye and other performers kicked off Bronx Rising’s monthly lineup, under the theme of Caribbean Carnival Traditions. The three-day event focuses on music, film and palabras (words), to raise the profile of the arts in the borough. The festival is co-curated by folklorist Elena Martinez of the cultural organization City Lore and Grammy-nominated Latin music percussionist Bobby Sanabria.

For attendees of the music performance, the band filled in different voids. Bronxite Mario Llamas, 42, appreciated “the way they combined the music of different countries,” a mix musicians rarely do live, he said.

The concert brought another fan back to his Peruvian roots.

Gonzalo Perez-Paredes, 26, a Manhattan resident who visited the Center for a taste of South Bronx-style music, said the evening made him homesick for his native Peru, where Afro-Hispanic traditions permeate the music.

“It was like being back in my country. I was missing this kind of music,” he said. “The way we dance in Peru, it is similar.”

The Bronx Music Heritage Center also plays a major role, not just that Thursday, but in the borough in general.

“There are not a lot of places for live music anymore in the Bronx,” said Tom Haskin, a community development assistant at the Heritage Center, adding that the center’s role is to function as “an incubator for Bronx artists, poets and singers,” and “a place for people in the community to enjoy the arts for free.”

To get a taste of Ilu Aye, here they are performing “Bomba” at Opening Concert for the New Meanings Percussion Symposium at Williams College.

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