Video: The Festival in the Desert + Tinariwen Private Performance

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Last night OKA was invited by the filmmakers of the Essakane Film to attend their fundraiser/cocktail party at The Players Club in NYC. The film documents the making of the most remote music festival in the world, The Festival in the Desert - watch the trailer here. Manny Ansar, the director of the festival, was kind enough to answer a few questions about the magic of music in the desert and the increasing difficulty of travel to the festival. We're definitely looking forward to the forthcoming film!

Below, members of the legendary Tuareg band, Tinariwen perform with JeConte on harmonica for the room of 40 people (!!!). 56 seconds into the video, Ansar accidentally bumps our camera as he takes a seat on the floor next to us. Needless to say, we had the best spot in the house! Stay tuned for OKA TV's official Tinariwen video coming soon!

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Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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