Monday, May 9, 2016

Interview with Dawn Drake

An active musician in New York City’s African, Brazilian, Cuban and Women’s music scenes, Dawn Drake started her career as an electric bass player and percussionist. Now she is known also as a singer-songwriter, composer and bandleader for her band Dawn Drake & ZapOte. She is also a very active teaching artist for several NYC arts organizations including the Brooklyn Arts Council

Dawn began traveling and studying world music through the UC Berkeley Study Abroad Program in Ghana, West Africa where she lived for a year . Upon moving to New York City, she started to play bass and percussion with artists and bands which have included Geoff Mann, The Femm Nameless, Paprika, Samba New York, Beat the Donkey, Obini Ashe, Jojo Kuo, Manmzel(an all-female Haitian Kompa band), Azouhouni Adou, Nepo Soteri and others. During this time she also acquired an MA in Ethnomusicology at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center. Dawn studied and played Afro-Cuban percussion including the sacred Batá drums in New York and Cuba, as well as samba percussion in Brazil, where she played in Rio de Janiero’s Carnaval.  She is one of very few female Batá  players in the US and has played with many well known Batá players in the Cuban community.

She has also shared the stage with Me’shell N’degeocello, Cyro Baptista, Trey Anastasio, Mo’Guajiro, Jorge Alabê and members of Antibalas. She has appeared on The CBS Early Show, and Telemundo TV, PBS, WBAI, and played stages such as Symphony Space, SOB’s, The Zinc Bar, Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room, Radio City Music Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music CAFE, The Walker Art Center, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Of late, she accompanies several West African artists on Bass. She also continues to accompany Afro-Cuban folkloric dancers on Congas and Batá.

Dawn Drake and her band ZapOte have performed live on Channel 56 in Manhattan  ( as well as CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s live radio show entitled “Audiofiles”; WBAI in NYC, KPFA Pacifica Radio in Berkeley, KUSP in Santa Cruz, and WTJU in Charlottesville. They have played in Holland, busked in France and Barcelona, and have played festivals and venues on the East and West Coast of the US. They were featured performers at BAMCafe Live in 2007, 2010 and 2015, the multi-city Bluemont Concert Series in Virginia 2008, the Wisteria Cornstalk Festival and Culturefest WV in 2009, the Downtown Berkeley Music Festival in 2009 and 2010, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Chili Pepper Festival in 2010, Iowa Women’s Music Festival 2011, Third Street Music Festival Concert Series 2012 & 2013, SisterSpace Weekend 2013, Danbury Concerts on the Green 2014, Mamapalooza 2015. Dawn’s 2 full-length albums are available on CD Baby,, as well as on itunes on

Dawn is a recipient of a scholarship from the California Institute of the Arts MFA Performer/Composer program where she has formed another band called Zarija Zmah Global Mixology

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