By Marion Filler
Kevin Hylton didn’t have to travel to India or Africa to find musicians for his band, Afrika Meets India.
The Big Apple had all the elements he needed for this global fusion quartet, which will play two shows at First Night Morris 2019 on New Year’s Eve in Morristown.
“New York has everything and everybody,” says Hylton. “There are many, many really great Indian and African musicians here. We all travel in the same circles, so they are not hard to find. If you went to any other city in the United States, you’d be lucky to find just one.”
It all started when Hylton began playing duets with Eric Fraser. Hylton was on a mbira, a thumb piano from Zimbabwe made from a wooden board with metal tines played like keys.
Fraser, among other things, is a master of the bansuri, an Indian flute.
“People started referring to our duets as Africa meets India, so we said O.K., let’s put together a larger ensemble. We fused traditional African songs with traditional Indian raga.”
Other instruments in the ensemble include the tabla, or small Indian drums, and the kora, a stringed instrument often called a West African harp.
The group has been together for about five years, and this will mark its second appearance at First Night Morris.
Organized by Morris Arts, First Night Morris consists of more than 100 artists and 81 events at 23 venues, all within an easy walk or free shuttle bus ride in Morristown. Afrika Meets India will perform upstairs at the Masonic Lodge, 39 Maple Ave., at 9:45 pm and 10:45 pm.
Hylton says his ensemble will appear in authentic dress.
“We will give the audience an explanation about the music and the instruments,” he says, “and tell them about the meaning of the songs.”
And audience participation is encouraged.
“They can chant and sing along. They can jump right into the music!”
First Night Morris starts at 4:45 pm on New Year’s Eve and concludes with midnight fireworks over the Morristown Green. One admission badge gets you into as many performances as you can manage. Badges are $25, or $90 for a four-pack. They may be purchased online line or at the Mayo Performing Arts Center box office at 100 South St., (973) 539-8008. Parking will be free at municipal lots in Morristown. MorristownGreen.com is a proud supporter of First Night Morris.