Okaidja Afroso hails from a family of storytellers and musicians from a fishing village on Ghana’s west coast.
“They have been the sole practitioners of our culture,” said the 48-year-old musician, who plays an acoustic guitar with nylon strings and percussion instruments. “I have come to really appreciate and also maintain the culture.”
Afroso’s sound is unique — he combines ancestral traditions and contemporary African music. And he sings in his native Ga, the national language of Ghana.
“When I perform, it’s time to connect with my audience, even though they don’t understand the words I’m singing,” Afroso said. “My project is to use the language, words, names and things to re-energize my people.”
His goal is for Americans to get his message: It’s difficult for Ghanaians to retain culture and history.
“The most important thing is to make sure my people are able to hear these songs,” Afroso said, “and also, hopefully, something can be done about some of the issues.”
Afroso is just one of the performers included in the 2023-2024 season of the Newman Center Presents series. Afroso and his five-piece group will perform his heritage project called “Jaka Murro” on Sept. 28.
The robust lineup has something for everyone, including numerous musical performances such as jazz artists and a chamber orchestra, the spoken word, live cinema and more. The season includes 16 show dates.
Opening the season is “Dog Man: The Musical” on Sept. 8. Dog Man has the head of a dog and the body of a policeman, and “loves to fight crime and chew on the furniture.” You can imagine the rest.
On Jan. 23, a troupe of Algerian, Moroccan, Bulgarian, Italian and French dancers will perform French-Algerian choreographer Hervé Koubi’s work.
Another highlight is “Acrobuffos: Air Play” on Feb. 8. This circus-style show of two siblings is summarized as so: “Air Play transforms ordinary objects into uncommon beauty. Umbrellas fly, fabrics soar over the audience, balloons swallow people. And snow swirls, filling the stage.”
The season finale is a concert by the seven-time Grammy award-winning Maria Schneider Orchestra on May 3.
The various jazz, dance and international programs will enhance the local orchestra theme, said Aisha Ahmad-Post, executive director of the Robert and Judi Newman Center for the Performing Arts.
“People are excited to learn about new artists and are excited to see stuff that they can’t find anywhere else in Denver,” Ahmed-Post said.