Mwenso and the Shakes are a unique troupe of global artists who present music that merges the highest form of entertainment and artistry- taking from the stylings of Fats Waller, Muddy Waters, James Brown and many other American musical legends.
Michael Mwenso leads an electrifying show the New York Times calls “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”
Mwenso & The Shakes' Walton Arts Center performance will open a dance floor in front of the stage so concertgoers can get up and dance during this high-energy show.
10x10 Q&A with Band-leader, Michael Mwenso
Born in Sierra Leone, Mwenso migrated to London as a child, seeking refuge during his country’s civil war. He was raised by his mother until his early teens, when she was deported back to Nigeria, her home country.
Mwenso’s mother, a frustrated actress, frequented London’s legendary jazz nightclub Ronnie Scott’s. She would often drop Mwenso off there, and by age 12 or 13, he was already performing onstage. It was during this time that he was discovered by James Brown, who invited Mwenso to perform with him.
A decade later, Mwenso was leading late-night band sessions at Ronnie Scott’s when he caught the ear of Wynton Marsalis. He accepted Marsalis’ invitation to run Jazz at Lincoln Center’s late-night jam at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola — and from that perch, Mwenso developed a loyal following of grassroots musicians and fans, leading the band he calls the Shakes.
What inspired the creation of Mwenso & The Shakes?
My love and search of music.
How does your work connect to the larger world?
We are not just a band but also ambassadors of love and hope.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration? Places, people, movements, etc?
Music comes from all varying degrees of inspiration. I try to include it all so that our music has references, the audience can connect to.
How do you give back to the art of jazz? And why is it important to do so?
As lovers of Jazz We believe you should be a guardian and protector. Teaching and sharing with younger people is part of our mission.
Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘M’—that best describe Mwenso & The Shakes.
Mighty, magical, magnetic, marvelous, meticulous
Whom do you define as a visionary?
David Bowie, Berry Gordy, Alvin Ailey, Kwame Nkrumah and Oprah Winfrey
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
To believe in prayer and to empower positive energy.
How does your group, from diverse backgrounds and experiences, jive together? What do you all do to create a “family-feel” with The Shakes?
We have lived very close in proximity, and many of us live in the same building. Doing things offstage brings us closer.
What do you hope audiences take away from your performances?
We always want our audiences to be empowered, challenged and leave feeling uplifted.
What songs, artists or styles of music are you currently listening to?
Gilbert and Sullivan, Aretha franklin, Mildred Bailey, burl Ives and Doris day.
Mwenso & The Shakes
Friday, Sept. 14 at 8 pm
Part of the 10x10 Arts Series
Mwenso & The Shakes lead an electrifying show that The New York Times calls “intense, prowling and ebullient.”