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21 août 2007

Get lifted: African World Festival will boost your spirits with music, dancing and art

Feed the mind with history and please the eye with art. Nourish the body with exotic and traditional cuisine, and lift the soul with music and dance during the 25th annual African World Festival at Hart Plaza today and Sunday. Hosted by the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the festival transcends boundaries, says Will Burnett, public program manager. "We try to provide activities and entertainment which appeal to all ages, colors and walks of life. There is a bit of Africa and its traditions in all of us."

New to the festival is the African Family Village, which features a wide range of activities that expose youth to African heritage and culture through arts and crafts, games, face painting and music.

Back again is the crowd-pleasing Step Show, with black fraternities and sororities performing intricately choreographed dance routines. "It is a big part of African-American culture and displays the precise drill movements that are really very similar to African dance and choreography."

Bring a hearty appetite and sample African and African-American cuisine served up by more than a dozen vendors, or get your holiday shopping done now and peruse the wares of 200 vendors selling clothing, jewelry, arts, crafts and CDs.

And don't think about missing a musical lineup that includes Afro-jazz, world music, blues, R&B, jazz, hip-hop and gospel. See Detroit's own, rap group Slum Village and R&B singer Charlie Wilson (formerly of the Gap Band) burn rubber on stage today. Befittingly on Sunday, enjoy the sounds of gospel with award-winner Vickie Winans and spiritual music pioneers the Blind Boys of Alabama.

The festival ends on a high-energy note when Afro-pop singer Angelique Kidjo belts out her hits. Her new album, "Djin Djin," features Alicia Keyes, Joss Stone, Carlos Santana, Peter Gabriel, Ziggy Marley and Josh Groban.

Kidjo, a native of the African country of Benin, has captivated music lovers around the globe for more than 20 years with her distinct sound and powerful stage performances.

"I love being on stage and I always try to give the best performance and to interact with the audience," she says. "I have played in more than 50 countries with very different cultures, but I feel the same bond with people. You have to get ready to dance and sing with me."

Ursula Watson / The Detroit News

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