The ASCAP award-winning Afro Yaqui Music Collective is a multilingual jazz band based in Atkinson, NH. Since 2016, they have been creating music ranging from soothing, introspective, cello-infused tango; to grooving, hard-hitting, virtuosic jazz-funk. Influenced by front-woman Gizelxanath Rodriguez’s experience growing up in two cultures (Mexican and American) and her ancestry as an Indigenous Yaqui woman, Afro Yaqui creates music in which culture and language fuse with catchy melodies and mind-bending harmony to enhance appreciation for diversity in an increasingly multicultural world. Some of their core members include Hugo Cruz (one of Havana’s leading drummers and percussionists) Jin Yang (a pipa player who has toured with Yo-Yo Ma and countless others) and Ben Barson (Fred Ho’s protege and winner ASCAP’s top award in jazz composers under 30, the Johnny Mandel prize.)
Afro Yaqui Music Collective came together in response to the rapidly changing political climate, in which working immigrant communities have become under attack, and climate change has threatened peoples across the world. As part of the band’s mission, their work develops dialogue with activists across the world. They have performed and worked with social movement leaders in Iraqi Kurdistan, Mayan and Yaqui communities in Mexico, and Tanzania. They have also performed at ASCAP’s 2018 jazz awards, at the Kennedy Center, and universities across the country. They constantly perform at fundraisers for immigrant rights and have also performed at the US-Mexican border in protest of human rights abuses in 2017.
On August 2nd, the band will release their debut album Mirror Butterfly: the Migrant Liberation Movement Suite, a dynamic jazz-opera. The music has been hailed by David Bernado of Recital: “With wide-eyed zeal, Afro Yaqui Music Collective delivers a dynamic new opera with Mirror Butterfly — a work that merges indigenous musics with jazz, funk, and hip-hop. The results are thrilling, head-bob-worthy, and deep. The band grooves and plays like a unit. On its own, the music requires some processing and unpacking. It begs for repeat listens, and would be a worthy addition to anyone’s record shelf.” The album will be released on Innova Recordings.