Dawn Drake & ZapOte: Brooklyn’s Global Mixologists

April 20, 2016 by
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Dawn Drake & ZapOte / photo by Albie Mitchell / courtesy of Dawn Drake

What do you call a female Slovenian-American bassist, conguera and singer-songwriter who studied and played congas and sacred Batá drums in Cuba, as well as samba percussion in Brazil?

If you live in Brooklyn, you may call her “neighbor.” If you live in Cuba, you’ll soon call her a returning artist or “Acere”, Cuban for ‘good friend’.

Brooklynite Dawn Drake, front woman and bandleader of Dawn Drake & ZapOte, returned to Cuba to perform at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba on April 20th. Playing for a private party, Drake shared her music with one of the many countries and cultures that deeply influenced it.

“My music has been described as Global Funk as well as World-Beat­Meets-Funk,” Drake recently told Brooklyn Roads. “I like to call it Global Mixology music because the influences are far reaching: from India to West Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and beyond.”

While “Global Mixology” is a rather groovy moniker it aptly describes the Dawn Drake & ZapOte sound, which Drake cultivated and honed in Brooklyn. “It is a culturally wealthy place with so many diverse populations from all over the world. Brooklyn is absolutely as huge and diverse as Manhattan,” Drake said.

“I live on a block with many musicians. It is an inspiration to me; I think being in the musical environment in New York in general gave me the drive to write as much as I have. Also, I have to give a shout to the Caribbean influence in Brooklyn that has inspired me greatly,” said Drake.

The Caribbean-Cuban influence on her singular sound is undeniable. But Drake invites the beats, tempos and sounds of many cultures into her music, as well as the genres and bands of her youth.

“I loved the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and The Who. Later, as a teenager, I was into Goth, New Wave and Post-Punk like Joy Division, Bauhaus and Sisters of Mercy,” she explained.

Today, in addition to ZapOte, she plays in Haitian Kompa bands and with Trinidadian Steel pan players. “I have met great Jamaican reggae artists. Brooklyn is very Caribbean to me and I appreciate that aspect that is unique to Brooklyn’s culture,” Drake said.

If unable to make the trip to Cuba, or land an invite to the party, you can experience Dawn Drake & ZapOte June 9th in New York City on the Mariner III at Chelsea Piers on the Hudson River or back in Brooklyn at Provence en Boite in Cobble Hill  on July 10th .