South Florida Cuban Son act Cortadito are one of three bands playing the opening show of the Afro Roots World Music Festival at Morada Way Arts and Cultural District. CONTRIBUTED

For the first time in its 20-year history, the Afro Roots World Music Festival will include the Florida Keys on its list of South Florida scheduled performances. The festival’s maiden concert is set for Saturday, April 28 from 3 to 10:30 p.m. at the Morada Way Arts and Cultural District. Subsequent performances are planned for May 17-19 in Key West and June 2 in Key Largo.

Senegal’s Morikeba Kouyate is master of the traditional African string instrument, the kora. CONTRIBUTED

“Although some of the effects of Hurricane Irma are still visible throughout the Florida Keys, the area is open for business and we intend to celebrate joyfully and accordingly,” said Jose Elias, founder and executive director of Community Arts and Culture (CAC). “The Keys are a national treasure and we are excited and proud to be bringing the Afro Roots Fest to Islamorada April 28. We look forward to sharing the wonderful African diaspora with residents and out-of-the-area travelers alike.”

Haiti’s Sanba Zao is known for his mastery of drumming and involvement in the roots music movement. CONTRIBUTED

Some 50 international and local performers are slated to play the festival’s various shows. The Islamorada concert will feature the music of the Nag Champayons, Cortadito, and Grupo Barrio Abajo.

The Nag Champayons’ self-described style of Afro Galactic/Tropidelic incorporates a full range of effects to add a dose of psychedelia that lends the music a Mars Volta-ish feel. Grupo Barrio Abajo channels its long-standing heritage of Latin American and Colombian musical styles like cumbia, bullerengue, porro, and chandé. The veteran group of musicians revive forgotten songs that are considered Colombian folklore classics. Cortadito’s focus on Cuban Son styled music gives its sound a soulful authenticity.

All performances are open to the public, with a $10 suggested donation for admission. The concerts are made possible by the non-profit organization Community Arts and Culture and their local partnerships with the Keys Tourism Development Council, Islamorada Community Entertainment, the Morada Way Arts and Culture District, and Florida Keys Brewing Co. For more information, including lineup and ticket links, visit or call 305-916-5521.

– Weekly Staff Report

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