Washington, D.C.-based Toby Foyeh and Orchestra Africa have played in 50 states, Canada and overseas but never in neighboring Montgomery County.
“This will be the first time,” says leader and singer Foyeh, who will be one of the headliners at the free, two-day FestAfrica in Silver Spring.
The nine-piece band will be playing what is calls “afrijam,” a fusion of Nigerian musical styles, including highlife, afrobeat and traditional Yoruba drum music mixed with pop, rock, jazz and Latin influences.
Afrobeat, a mix of Nigerian and American music with chanted vocals, was developed in the 1970s by the late Nigerian singer and activist Fela Kuti, who is the subject of the award-winning Broadway musical, “Fela!”
“We’re guitar based it’s like afrobeat but without the horns,” says Foyeh, a native of Nigeria who studied film and music at Howard University in the District.
“Some of my influences have been Jimi Hendrix, Santana and Eric Clapton,” says Foyeh, whose band uses guitar, bass, drum and keyboards.
The festival of African music, dance, food and fashion will take place for the second consecutive year at the Silver Spring Civic Building at Veterans Plaza, and this year will include a different mix of performers and vendors than last year.
“It’s all new we try not to use the same cultures every year,” says Bunmi Salako, administration manager for the event, which originated in Baltimore 10 years ago.
A group of Nigerian students, who had been holding cultural events at colleges in the Baltimore area, formed the Nigerian Youth Association to reach a wider audience partly as a way to dispel media stereotypes about Africa.
“Ghanians and other African countries got more involved,’’ Salako says. “We wanted to showcase each of our cultures, to show the other side of African culture that people typically don’t see or hear about.”
Two years ago, the festival moved from Patterson Park in Baltimore to Silver Spring.
“We wanted to be relatively central,” says Tolu Olumide Yeboah, one of the organizers who sings under the stage name TolumiDE, about the move.
“A lot of immigrants and immigrant businesses were coming from D.C. and Virginia,” she says.
The Baltimore festival charged $5 admission, but that was dropped in Silver Spring, thanks to support from Montgomery County and the Maryland Arts Council, she says.
“We wanted it so everyone could come, network with Africans in the community, and bring a bit of Africa to the state,” says Yeboah, who also will be performing with Congolese singer John Bashengezi.
Also at the festival, which runs from 1-8 p.m. both days, will be vendors with information about travel to African countries, along with nonprofits who are doing service work there.
Headlining the event Sunday will be guitarist Diblo Dibala and his band playing “soukous,” African dance music based on the Cuban rumba.
Additional singers include Jamaican-born Lenny Kurlou and the Kurlou Reggae Allstars, Baltimore-based singer Navasha Daya, as well as other singers.
Dance groups also are part of the festival lineup, including the Ishangi Legacy Family Dancers, as well as Charm City Dance Theatre from Baltimore.
Also scheduled is a fashion show with African-influenced creations by Ghanian designer Afua Sam of Washington-based Studio D’Maxsi, Nigerian-American model Asanat Akibu (Sha’Koju Clothing) and other designers.
New to the festival this year are awards given to Africans in the U.S. and overseas who have shown outstanding initiative, inspired others and contributed to society.
Among them is Sam, winner of the Fashion award, who personally designs a prom dress for a high school senior who is committed to academic excellence.
Receiving the Community Service award is Nigerian native and motivational speaker Margaret Dureke of Riverdale in Prince George’s County, who heads Women Empowered to Achieve the Impossible (WETATI).
Dureke is being honored for her community service and her work to motivate women and girls to achieve.
“I see myself as an American, but you never forget who you are,” she says about the organizers of the festival.
“It’s like a mini-Africa,” she says. “I’ve never gotten this from the African community [in the United States] before. It means the world to me.”