Aphrodesia is a San Francisco-based Afro-funk band and the first
Americans to play at the legendary New Afrika Shrine in Lagos, Nigeria.
Their shows are lively and full of vibrant energy.
Listen to their music on Myspace and check out the new live album
recorded this year.
Before Aphrodesia, band member Lara studied African dance in Ghana. root is excited
that she's taken time out of her busy touring schedule share her experience with us.
Photos courtesy of Lara and taken by Todd Grady
Top: Lara poses with children in Binaba, Ghana
Middle: Lara and Nicole Rodriguez share their love of dance with some women in Binaba, Ghana
Bottom: Posing with Femi Kuti's Dancers
It was 1996, only 2 short years of being thoroughly
entranced by African rhythms that I found myself on an
airplane to Accra, Ghana. I had to get a taste of
where all this spirited rhythm emerged. What I found
was of course nothing I could ever expect.
After stumbling around the dust and open sewers of Accra
for a few days I found my way to a small fishing village
called Kokrobite. Fisherman lined the beach with old,
wooden boats that were painted with prayers. They
sang to keep time and direction for the pulling in of
their nets. It was here that I stayed for 9 months
without electricity, without running water, in a small
hut with a lop-sided straw bale bed.
I had heard about the famous Addy drumming family. I
was told that they conducted classes in Kokrobite.
This is where I met my first drum/dance instructor
Maputo Mensah. Everyday I danced in a pavillion on
the beach learning the traditional dances of the Ga
people. It was truly an initiation into rhythm, into
my body, and into African life.
My interest in the traditional songs, rhythms, and dances
connected me to the people. It was a way to converse without
words using dance as a common language. Everyday when I
walked through the village bands of children would
follow me singing and trying to engage me in dance.
In fact, in Ghana, one is never alone, there is no
place to hide. Having all eyes on you all the time
provides a magnified reflection where there is little
room for self-consciousness or shame. This is what I
did through the dance, I shed shame.
In the evenings I would sit and listen to a woman sing
while she made omelets. This woman, named Kokwe and her
sisters, daughters, and sister wives, would all gather and
cajole me into singing Ga songs with them. Again,
there was no room for doubt, I had to try. This
became a nightly ritual, and Kokrobite became my
After a 10 year evolution of African dance and song
I was able to return to my village with my 10 piece
afro-beat band called Aphrodesia. We were met with
awe and excitement. No one had ever returned to
deliver their traditional songs in a new context
orchestrated by a 10 piece band. The response was
ecstatic and what followed were some amazing
We performed in Kokrobite with the women of the village who
I'd sang with nightly. We went far up to remote villages in the
north and put together a show in the weekly market with the local
"Bob Marley and the "local Madonna". This tour took us
through Togo, Benin, and into the New Africa Shrine,
in Lagos, Nigeria to perform with Femi Kuti.
Femi's dancers enveloped us in ecstatic celebration. They
costumed the 3 women of the band, taught us to dance
like Nigerian girls and shoved us out onto the stage
with Femi. Once again, there was no time for doubt.
You have to believe in yourself to survive in Africa.
All you have is all you need.
God is real
you can talk to him
in the soccer field in Teshe-Nungua
you can talk to him along the beach
or through a rock with
cowrie shells for eyes
who sits along the Volta River
God loves to dance
and will often show up
when his favorite rhythm is played
God is Christian and Muslim
and honors the fetish tradition
He eats dried fish
and sleeps on a bench
and sings proverbs
He is from the desert
and from the dust
and from the stars
God is real
I've seen people talking to him
he doesn't mind if you yell