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West Hartford Residents To Perform in Free African-Inspired Concert

Diaspora concert with Betty Harris. Submitted photo

West Hartford residents are among the performers, board members and grant funders of the free African-Inspired concert scheduled for July 30.

Diaspora concert with Betty Harris. Submitted photo

Dillyn Caruso, left, Dayna Snell, Aayela Hardy, and Betty Harris, (with Gail Williams, on bass seated in the background,) perform during last year’s Music from the African Diaspora concert. Submitted photo


Queen Ann Nzinga Center, Inc. presents its free, family friendly Music from the African Diaspora concert at 7 p.m. on July 30, at the Theater for the Performing Arts at the Learning Corridor in Hartford.

Nzinga’s Daughters headlines the annual show. Also performing are the world-renowned soul singer Betty Harris; Changes; Crystal Blue Project; VOICES, LLC; Nzinga’s Daughters R&B Band; Orice Jenkins Band;  Toni Ligoin; and Laticia Lewis.

David Mayes, and Harris, who mentor young vocalists in the Queen Ann Nzinga Center programs, will each perform a solo. The free concert is geared to all ages, and children are welcome.

Teens from the program who have received vocal training will also be performing solos. They are: Sabrina Jones; Dillyn Caruso; Taylor Rose; and Aaleya Hardy.

Prior to the start of the concert, long-time performers, including Harris and bass player Gail Williams, will talk with the audience about the history of music, which has its roots in Africa. The artists will share what the audience can expect and what to listen for. The elder performers will lead a question and answer session with the audience.

“If you like Prince, Natalie Cole, Mick Jagger, Beyoncé, Rihanna and Michael Jackson, you’ll enjoy this show,” says Dayna R. Snell, executive director of the Queen Ann Nzinga Center. “All kinds of music have been influenced by music from the African Diaspora. The beats and the rhythms of the music you hear are a contribution from those of African descent.”

The show is designed to appeal to children and adults alike. For example, Nzinga’s Daughters will perform a calypso-style version of “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” and Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song (Day O.)”

The concert will include jazz, Latin, reggae, rock ’n roll and interactive songs, she said. This is not the kind of concert where the audience is a passive observer; the show sparks audience participation.

“It is the synergy between the audience and the performers,” she said. “You come and you feel like you should join. The music brings you in. The stage, the artists, bring you in and pull you close. We transform barriers. So when you come to the music, you’re not black or white, you’re not young or old, you’re not rich or poor.”

Thanks to grants from the Evelyn Preston Memorial Fund and the Greater Hartford Arts Council, the concert is free so that anyone can attend.

“We do that to break down barriers. We’re in Hartford, in a central location, in a place where everybody is welcome,” Snell said. “We create a place for people to come together to sing, dance and experience the music. We are all transformed – the artists, the audience and the community.”

Doors to the theater at 359 Washington St. open at 6 p.m., and prior to the concert, artwork and photography will be sold at a silent auction to benefit the Queen Ann Nzinga Center’s youth arts and enrichment programs.  For information, contact Queen Ann Nzinga Center at [email protected] or860-229-8389.

About Queen Ann Nzinga Center, Inc.

The Queen Ann Nzinga Center provides boys and girls, ages 5 to 18, arts and culture programs that empower them to reach their full potential, boosting self-esteem, better grades, a stronger sense of themselves and improved social skills. The program provides participants weekly sessions on African and African-American history, using storytelling, poetry, drama, music, dance and other art forms to build self-confidence and leadership skills. QANC is named for a 15th Century African queen who protected her people from being sold into slavery.  The name symbolizes the organization’s aim to empower young people with skills and experiences to thrive. QANC, in its 26th year, is a nonprofit 501(c)3 that serves a diverse, multi-racial and multi-cultural population of children and teens by providing arts and cultural enrichment in a multi-generational setting. http://www.qanc.org

The programs of the Queen Ann Nzinga Center would not be possible without its sponsors:  the Elizabeth Norton Trust Fund, American Savings Foundation, Friends of Jimmy Miller, J. Walton Bissell Foundation, Greater Hartford Arts Council, Well Fargo, TD Bank’s ‘Save the Change’ program, Evelyn W. Preston Memorial Trust Fund, Bank of America, N.A. Trustee, Redeemer’s A.M.E. Zion Church and Grace C.M.E. Church.

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1 Comment

  • Wish I could be there for this performance and art show. Congratulations to everyone responsible for it. II loved my five year residence in West Hartford in the late ’70s and have fond memories of Conard, the Hartt School of Music and the peace and beauty of this community.

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