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Spirit of Africa is part of the Seattle Center Festál series and produced in partnership with Inspired Child.

In 2022, Seattle Center Festál is celebrating 25 years of stories and traditions. The theme, "Where the World Gathers" links together the series of 24 free festivals presented throughout the year, each with a unique cultural focus, identity, and range of engaging activities.

Presented by Thione Dipo and Inspired Child, the 16th annual festival took place virtually and streamed live from Dakar, Senegal on Saturday, May 14th at 3pm PST and is available to watch below.

The festival was hosted by DJ CocoJean and features performances by the Nandy's Band, Bakalama Danse, Dady Thioune, and Bolero! These amazing performances were recorded at La Mer à Table in Dakar, Senegal. 


Thione Diop, a Seattle-based (since 1998) percussionist from Senegal, West Africa, is descended from an ancestral line of Griot drummers. He fuses traditional rhythms with jazz and collaborates with many musicians from a wide range of musical backgrounds. His music appears in four studio albums and several films. He tours internationally, teaches at University of Washington, and is founder and co-producer of the annual Spirit of Africa Festival in Seattle, now in its 16th year.

Thione has shared the stage with such noteworthy musicians as Poncho Sanchez, Lee Oskar, Alpha Blondy, Prince Diabate and Max Romeo. In Senegal, Thione has collaborated with renowned griot artists Babou Laye Cissokho; master Kora player, Thierno Kouyate; Orchestra Baobab saxophonist, Thierno Ba; Xalam master, Samba Ndoc Tama player for Cheikh Lo and singer Abdoulaye N’Diaye.

Inspired Child is an art, science, and heritage organization whose mission is the transference of craft from those who are experienced to those who are inspired to learn. Find them on Facebook and Instagram (@inspiredchildcommunity).


DJ CocoJean  was such a hit last year that the festival invited him back to emcee this year’s festival. CocoJean’s upbeat style energizes the rhythm and flow of the festival as he introduces and interviews the artists. He is multi-lingual, which gives him the ability to engage audiences from around the world. DJ CocoJean is CEO of GMC Group Media, Manager of RADIOLIVE45, and a popular radio personality in West Africa.


Bakalama Danse, now in its 50th year, comes from the disciplines of movement, music and percussion. Its diversified activities revolve around traditional African songs and dances. Bakalama, meaning “calabash,” represents unity and rootedness in the Diola culture.

Dady Thioune is a Senegalese artist, author, composer, interpreter, who makes word music. Son of a doctor, Dady Thioune got involved in music from the age of 9 due to his music-loving parents. Dady was rocked by the rhythms of Jazz, Country, Blues and Afro that his father listened to. B B king, Scorpions, Phil Collins, Dire Street, Lucky Dube, Ali Farka Toure, Tracy Chapman, and Wes Mongomery are some of the artists who influenced his tastes and his inclinations as a guitarist. Dady Thioune quickly stood out and started playing for the greatest Senegalese singers including Omar Pène and the Baobab Orchestra. He has also shared stages with Youssou Ndour and collaborated with Adiouza and Carlou D. With opportunities to evolve among great musicians and especially with the musical school of the street, Dady Thioune has been propelled to the front of the Senegalese musical scene.

Bolero (Rene Sowatche) is a musician and guitarist from Benin. He discovered Senegal in 2014 where he settled for a musical adventure. Nick Gold, the producer of the label, World Circuit, discovered his talent and recruited him immediately. He replaced the irreplaceable Barthélémy Atissole, legendary guitarist of Le Baobab. Bolero has demonstrated his talent at many major festivals around the world. He also participates in the careers of some Senegalese Artists notably (Cheikh Ló as his current Guitarist, Woz Kally, Daraji Family, Carlou D, Kya Loum, and many others). Bolero And The African Groove is his own Afrojazz Project. The debut album ( We are Africa) was released and recorded in December 2019 in Dakar. Their music is a mixture of traditional rhythms. In Benin, there is tèkè, which sounds a bit like mbalakh from Senegal. There is also Agbadja from Togo, and Afrobeat. Bolero draws inspiration from the highlife of Ghana to create this traditional fusion-jazz music.

Nandy Tamba Melo De Barros is a Caboverdian singer, born and raised in the city of Somada in Santiago island, with Bissau Guinea descents. In 2012, Nandy decided to pursue her studies in Dakar, where she still lives. Mother of two, Nandy balances a full-time job as a school principal manager and her many singing performances with the Nandy's Band at several festivals and prestigious stages in Dakar.

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Seattle Center Festál presents Spirit of Africa in partnership with Inspired Child. The festival presents traditional and contemporary music, a fashion show, art, food, marketplace, dance workshops, and more!


Spirit of Africa is a celebration of the music, dance, and culture of Africa. The festival bring high quality musicians, dancers, and other artists to the festival to showcase the richness, diversity, and joyfulness of African music and dance. Yet, it also strives to educate the community about African culture and the importance of music and dance both today and throughout history. Spirit of Africa is a yearly, one-day event held at Seattle Center.

The festival showcases the cultural and ethnic traditions of the African countries and the African diaspora for the enjoyment and enlightenment of the broader community. Its mission is to bring people together in peace, love, and unity. The festival has been active for 14 years, expanding its audience throughout the Northwest region, and hosting more than 1,500 people in 2019.

The festival also brings out-of-town artists to perform individually and also together with local African artists. It showcase the amazing talents of both out-of-town artists and the excellent talent in the Seattle area. Together, this group represents the music, dance and culture from many different African countries.

Founded and produced by a local Senegalese Griot musician, Spirit of Africa was formerly known as the Spirit of West Africa. In a conscious effort to rebrand and be inclusive, the festival now celebrates the whole Africa continent and African diaspora.


  • Africa is a huge continent, comprising of 54 countries and over a billion people.
  • Timbuktu, Mali is home to one of the oldest universities in the world, established in 982 CE.
  • The world’s biggest frog is found in Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon (it can be up to one foot long and weigh up to eight pounds).
  • 1,250 - 2,100 different languages are spoken in Africa.
  • Africans were the pioneers of basic arithmetic around 25,000 years ago.

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