ZUMIX Summer Concerts 2021

Written by Najwa Aswad, ZUMIX Events Coordinator

After 18 months dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, life in Boston is slowly moving back to normal as schools reopen and vaccines roll out to the general population.

ZUMIX summer concerts came back this year with a vengeance, filling East Boston’s Piers Park with music all summer long. We had an amazing variety of performances this summer, but here are some highlights:

Led by ZUMIX’s own Ben and Brian Paulding, Rhythms of Ghana is ZUMIX’s African drumming ensemble. The ensembles only had a few in-person performances before their big debut—the rest were conducted virtually! The ensemble still performed at a high level, accompanied by Ghanaian singer Koblavi Douga, who is based in Vermont.

Paulding joined Kotoko Brass on stage once Rhythms of Ghana completed their performance. Douga got the crowd moving with rhythm dance moves. Kotoko Brass combines traditional African music with New Orleans jazz and energized the crowd with a thriving brass section, accompanied by eclectic traditional drums and a grooving backline.

Johanna Affelin is one of ZUMIX’s most talented singer-songwriters. She has been attending our programs since she was 7 years old! Her biggest musical inspirations are her Brazilian heritage and Nina Simone. Johanna showed her talent in singing, ukulele, and piano as she graced Piers Park with her voice, reminiscent of acclaimed singer Norah Jones. 

Dzidzor and her ensemble brought eclectic sounds full of stories and facilitated powerful meditation among the crowd. Using a loop synthesizer, Dzidzor combined world-music influences with modern synthesizer techniques to produce an enthralling soundscape. The best part was the jam at the end, when Johanna came back onstage and lent her voice (literally!) to a stellar improvisation.

The final summer concert was the perfect event to honor the Hispanic community of East Boston. ZUMIX board member and Salsa y Control dance instructor Johnny Giraldo led a short dance lesson to warm up the crowd and teach some simple moves. The lesson was his gift to ZUMIX for our 30th birthday!

Manolo Mairena y La Pura Vida could not have been a better way to end our summer concert series. La Pura Vida grooved effortlessly with keys, congas, percussion, and a drummer setting the pace. Victor Mairena, the band’s founder and lead singer, belted lyrics in Spanish while half of the neighborhood descended into the park, many of them with dance partners. East Boston residents continued dancing salsa into the evening as the sun set over the harbor and Boston’s skyline. It was truly a magical night.

Finally, a huge statement of gratitude goes to ZUMIX’s Live Sound Service team. We couldn’t do these great live concerts without them! Thank you to anyone who volunteered, donated money, or simply enjoyed these live events. We look forward to our series of summer concerts next year. 

If you have suggestions on how to improve the ZUMIX Summer Concert experience, please contact Events Coordinator Najwa Aswad at najwa.aswad@zumix.org.