Even if the State Fair didn’t have the International Bazaar to celebrate the state’s rich array of immigrant culture, Siama Matuzungidi would probably still be a fixture at the Great Minnesota Get-Together since his music very much celebrates unity.
The Congolese guitar picker can be seen doing just that alongside his wife and musical sidekick Dallas Johnson in this Mini-Grandstand video. Their live act — which incorporates tales of his youth and travels abroad with infectious Afropop grooves and melodies — is as warmly received at family-friendly events as in nightclubs.
Siama left the Republic of Congo in 1971 at age 17 and finally landed in Minnesota in 1995 with help from the late Sen. Paul Wellstone. In the interim, he worked mostly in Kenya and became a reputable soukous guitarist (that’s the breezy sound copped by those cool Vampire Weekend kids).
In Minnesota, he played with the likes of Shangoya and Marimba Africa before once again making a name for himself. He has since received a McKnight Fellowship and won a Parents Choice Parent Approved Award for his recent album, “The Land of Yangalele” (translation: “Happiness”).