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Mwenso and The Shakes

February 3 @ 7:30 pm - February 10 @ 7:30 pm


Watch the event beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 3. It will be available for streaming through 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 10. 

The Center for the Performing Arts debut of the recorded concert, at 7:30 p.m. February 3, will be followed by a live conversation among some of the artists and Amy Dupain Vashaw, the center’s audience and program development director.

“Not many bands in the orbit of jazz today can begin to approach the crowd-pleasing threshold of Mwenso and the Shakes,” writes a WBGO.org reviewer. A Jazziz writer calls the band “a unique troupe of global artists presenting music that merges entertainment and artistry.”

A native of Sierra Leone, Michael Mwenso moved to London as a youngster and by his early teens found himself on stage with soul-music great James Brown. After organizing a late-night jam session at Ronnie Scott’s, a London jazz club, Wynton Marsalis hired him as a musician and a curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Surrounded in New York City by dozens of musicians based in Harlem, Mwenso soon selected a group of artists who would become The Shakes. Members of the band, which calls Harlem home, come from far-flung places such as South Africa, Madagascar, France, Jamaica, and Hawaii.

“The music doled out by Mwenso and the Shakes is effusive, overflowing with elements of classical jazz, blues, world music, and tap. When played live, this amalgam of ideas and musical references has garnered the spiritual jazz-outfit with a reputation for energetic sets and genre-pushing inventiveness,” notes a writer for allarts.wliw.org.

Inspired by the stylings of Fats Waller, Muddy Waters, Brown, and other American music luminaries, Mwenso leads an electrifying show The New York Times calls “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”

The band has become popular in New York City, in part, through its late-night sessions in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s intimate Dizzy’s Club.

Emergence [The Process of Coming into Being], the debut album by Mwenso and The Shakes, was released in 2019.

Duke Performances commissioned this virtual concert, which was recorded at a studio in New York City in December 2020.


February 3 @ 7:30 pm
February 10 @ 7:30 pm


Penn State Center for the Performing Arts