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Afro-pop bands hop continents

In U.S., African musicians find more opportunity and audiences.

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Afro-pop bandleader Helder Tsinine (above) and Kina Zoré record their first album in Boston. They regularly perform at local venues around the city such as the Milky Way Lounge in Jamaica Plain, Mass.

Ann Hermes/Staff

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It's a sweaty, early autumn afternoon on Boston's fashionable Newbury Street, and a small crowd has gathered around a group of musicians who are performing a kind of flash-mob concert.

The band is Kina Zoré; the music is a fusion of Mozambican traditional music, Afro-pop, and American jazz; and the crowd is grooving. Bandleader Helder Tsinine runs through a series of arpeggios up and down the neck of his guitar and sings lyrics in his native Ronga tongue, while Noah Teshu and Galen Willett keep rhythm on drums and bass. A Sudanese synthesizer player named Mohamad Araki lays in a hard-rock-sounding solo on top, with a decidedly retro-looking "keytar," while Sean Peters and Conor Jones play horns.

Close your eyes, and you just may find yourself transported to the beaches of Maputo, Mozambique, under swaying palm trees, in front of a vast aqua-colored sea. Open your eyes, and you see ... well, concrete and graffiti, and a great new up-and-coming Afro-pop band.

Mr. Tsinine is not the first African musician to try his luck on American shores, and he won't be the last.

But in a world of new media and changing tastes, where Africans are increasingly intrigued by the American sounds of hip-hop, and where Americans are attracted to the exotic sounds of Mother Africa, Tsinine may be in just the right place at the right time.

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