Lara Gonzalez, one of our resident North Adams artists, is an international musician, teaching artist, and co-founder of Marafanyi Drum, Dance & Song. Lara and her business partner Yael Shacham, also an A4A participant, founded their West African drum, dance, and song practice over ten years ago. Now a trio with Lisa Gonzalez-Howell, Marafanyi fuses original songs and spoken word with traditional West African rhythm and dance – and showcases an exciting variety of indigenous instruments. The Marafanyi crew is inspired by the therapeutic, educational, and transformative power of drum, dance and song, and they are passionate about bringing that energy to North Adams!
The vivacious, talented trio has been in high demand for group shows of every genre. Angélique Kidjo, Odetta, Ram Dass, and DJ Spooky are just a few of the luminaries with whom Marafanyi has shared a stage. Recently, Marafanyi collaborated with Guinean Master Artist M’Bemba Bangoura and Guinean Griot & Balafon Master Famoro Dioubaté. Marafanyi has also provided dance and musical support for Congolese guitarist Dominic Kanza and his African Rhythm Machine (in their 2007 MASS MoCA show), Habib Koité, the Sierra Leone Refuge All-Stars, and Grammy award winner Angélique Kidjo.
Lara and Yael will be pooling their A4A grant resources toward a long overdue world music recording project. It will spotlight original pieces inspired by their travels to Guinea and integrate field recordings from there. In addition, they will record a “Therapeutic Soundscape Collection” expressing their commitment to healing arts influenced by the African tradition.
If you can’t wait to hear Lara and Yael, check out this amazing recording of Marafanyi performing an excerpt of “FotoYankaSinteba” at the Bickford Theater in Morristown, New Jersey!
We’re grateful to Lara and Yael for bringing their passion and enthusiasm for African Drum and Dance to North Adams. About the creative culture of North Adams, Lara says, “I find North Adams and the Berkshire area inspiring with its diverse mix of creatives. I’ve had mill-mates that include amazing visual artists (sculpture, print-making, painting, weaving, textiles, screen printing, puppeteers, video), fiction writers, yogis, musicians, landscape artists, an orchid cultivator and more.”