Election Section

Samba Ngo Invites All To Dance at Ashkenaz: By JAKOB SCHILLER

Tuesday November 02, 2004

Everyone who’s been anxiously awaiting the national election might learn a thing or two from Samba Ngo, an African musician who lives by the motto “Let’s dance now, because tomorrow who knows.” 

It might also be a good time to unwind from all the hard work when Ngo brings his eclectic blend of African, jazz and funk to the Ashkenaz on Saturday night. 

It’s hard to imagine that Ngo’s positive outlook is actually derived from a host of difficult experiences growing up. Originally born in the Congo, Ngo lived through his country’s civil war and anti-colonial struggle. In an environment full of chaos, he said that he needed to find an outlet or risk being consumed by it. He eventually found music and ever since has produced a unique blend that mixes his political past with his spirituality and love for life. 

“I admire humankind because I recognize that humankind will keep going,” said Ngo, who constantly smiles and ends every other sentence with “C’est bon,” French for “that’s great.”  

Ngo, who currently lives in Santa Cruz and works out of his studio in El Cerrito, is known world-wide and has played a major part in promoting and popularizing Congolese music. He originally learned to play from his father, the only doctor in their village of Dibulu, which is now part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.  

Besides his father, Ngo said he is heavily influenced by the well-known South African musician Miriam Makeba. After leaving the Congo, he said his exposure to American music, including gospel and artists like Ray Charles and James Brown, all helped him develop his own style. To date he’s released 18 albums, including his newest, called Ndoto. 

Ngo describes his music as a mix of “the country and the city,” with its roots back in his African village and its flavor in the American music he’s come to love. 

Ngo performs this Saturday at the Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo Ave. There will also be a screening of Heart of the Congo, a documentary by Tom Weidlinger about aid workers trying to rebuild the Democratic Republic of the Congo after the civil war. Ngo composed and performed music for the documentary. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the film begins at 8 p.m. The concert will begin at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and the show is open to all ages. 525-5054. www. ashkenaz.com.