Penn State College of Arts and Architecture
Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State

Event Slides Per Node 1415

  • Michael Mwenso and members of The Shakes play their instruments and clap their hands.

Mwenso and The Shakes

7:30 pm Wednesday, February 3, 2021

“Not many bands in the orbit of jazz today can begin to approach the crowd-pleasing threshold of Mwenso and the Shakes,” writes a WBGO.org reviewer. A Jazziz writer calls the band “a unique troupe of global artists presenting music that merges entertainment and artistry.”

A native of Sierra Leone, Michael Mwenso moved to London as a youngster and by his early teens found himself on stage with soul-music great James Brown. After organizing a late-night jam session at Ronnie Scott’s, a London jazz club, Wynton Marsalis hired him as a musician and a curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Surrounded in New York City by dozens of musicians based in Harlem, Mwenso soon selected a group of artists who would become The Shakes. Members of the band, which calls Harlem home, come from far-flung places such as South Africa, Madagascar, France, Jamaica, and Hawaii. 

“The music doled out by Mwenso and the Shakes is effusive, overflowing with elements of classical jazz, blues, world music, and tap. When played live, this amalgam of ideas and musical references has garnered the spiritual jazz-outfit with a reputation for energetic sets and genre-pushing inventiveness,” notes a writer for allarts.wliw.org. 

Inspired by the stylings of Fats Waller, Muddy Waters, Brown, and other American music luminaries, Mwenso leads an electrifying show The New York Times calls “intense, prowling, and ebullient.”

The band has become popular in New York City, in part, through its late-night sessions in Jazz at Lincoln Center’s intimate Dizzy’s Club. 

Emergence [The Process of Coming into Being], the debut album by Mwenso and The Shakes, was released in 2019.

Duke Performances commissioned this virtual concert, which was recorded at a studio in New York City in December 2020.


Watch the event beginning at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 3. It will be available for streaming until 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, February 10. 


The performance run time is approximately 55 minutes.


This presentation is part of the Center for the Performing arts Fierce Urgency Festival.

2020–2021 Up Close and Virtual season sponsors


Contributions from the members of the Center for the Performing Arts and a grant from the University Park Student Fee Board help make this program free of charge.

Help us continue to provide free streaming programs with a donation of $5 or more. Or join as a member starting at $60 and receive benefits.


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