The Beat Goes On: Hip hop and Islam join forces, the return of a native bluegrass daughter, and more

  • Hip hop dancer, choreographer and teacher/activist Amirah Sackett, who works to dispel stereotypes about Muslim women, leads a dance party tonight (July 1) at the Drake in Amherst. Image from Amirah Sackett website

  • Leverett native Natalya Weinstein, left foreground, and her husband, John Cloyd Miller, right foreground, will bring their Americana-style ensemble from North Carolina to the Wesley United Methodist Church in Hadley July 15. Image from Z0e & Cloyd website

  • Blue Toed, the stage name of multimedia artist Nico Lepeska-True, is one of three acts that will play July 7 on the Forbes Library lawn in a show produced by the Flywheel Arts Collective. Image from Bandcamp

  • New England folk veteran David Mallett performs July 6 at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley. Phoe by Dale Moreau/courtesy David Mallet website

  • Channeling the sounds of Levon Helm, Robbie Robertson, Rick Danco and the rest of The Band, The THE BAND Band plays Race Street Live in Holyoke July 8. Photo by Jack/The THE BAND Band website

  • Basher will bring their “dance-crazed party music” to the Drake July 9.  Image from Basher website

  • Cellist Eugene Friesen and singer/songwriter Elizabeth Rogers play July 9 at the UU Society in Amherst. Image courtesy Halycyon Arts New England

Staff Writer
Thursday, June 30, 2022

The Drake, the new club in downtown Amherst, has staked out its identity so far by offering a wide variety of music — jazz, funk, Americana, rock, classical and more — and also clearing away seating some nights for dancing.

That’s the case tonight (Friday, July 1), when Amirah Sackett comes to the club at 8 p.m. to lead a busy hip hop dance party. Sackett, who grew up in Minnesota and is now based in Chicago, has an extensive background as a hip-hop dancer, choreographer and teacher.

She’s also been a TEDx speaker and, through the U.S Department of State, has performed and taught in Bangladesh and Malaysia as a cultural diplomat.

Sackett brings something else to her work as well: Islam.

She began getting considerable attention several years ago when, as part of a trio of dancers, she released a video, “We’re Muslim, Don’t Panic,” that went viral. Breaking down misconceptions about Muslim women and their faith has become an integral part of her work.

“Being a Muslim woman and being in the Twin Cities where there’s a large Muslim community, those two worlds of hip hop and Islam were separated for me,” she said in a video interview a few years ago. “And I really wanted to bring them together.”

As The Huffington Post puts it, “At a time when hate and intolerance have become a common theme of political discourse, Sackett’s work is as important as ever.”

At the Drake, Sackett will be joined by Ahmed Zaghbouni, aka MR MiC — a beatboxer, musician, voice impressionist and film director from Tunisia. In fact, MR MiC represented his country in the 2019 World Championship of Beatboxing; he’s also collaborated with Sackett on a series of videos, “Beatboxing Meets Popping.”


Back in the early 2000s, Leverett native Natalya Weinstein, who’d grown up studying classical violin, got hooked on bluegrass fiddle when she was at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. After graduating in 2004, she moved to Asheville, North Carolina and began playing with a range of local bluegrass and old-time country musicians.

Today, Weinstein is part of the Americana group Zoe & Cloyd with her husband, John Cloyd Miller (the band’s name is drawn from their middle names). Miller, who plays guitar, banjo and mandolin, is the grandson of pioneering bluegrass fiddler Jim Shumate, and he’s won a number of awards for his songwriting.

The couple have been coming up to the Valley for years to perform, and now, after a two-year delay courtesy of COVID-19, they return July 15 to play at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Hadley.

At their show, at 7 p.m., they’ll be joined by Bennett Sullivan on banjo and Nate Sabat on bass, and they’ll be playing cuts from their most recent album, “Rebuild,” which offers plenty of hoe-down energy on songs like the title cut and “That Home Far Away,” as well as shades of klezmer on “Hoffman’s Hora/David’s Frailach.”

And “Where Do You Stand” offers some pointed commentary on the grinding political paralysis in Washington, D.C. and the polarization of so many Americans: “Are we too dug in to face the truth we’re gettin’ nowhere fast? / And I wonder if we’re really gonna last.”

Anchoring Zoe & Cloyd’s sound are tight harmonies and musicianship — and the energy and joy they feel now that they’re back to playing live music.

“We are slowly getting our touring legs back again and are excited to come back to perform in the Northeast this summer with a 6-show tour in MA/NY/CT,” Weinstein wrote in an email.

Tickets for the Hadley show are a $20 suggested donation at the door.


Flywheel, the longtime arts collective that had to give up its digs in Easthampton’s Old Town Hall during the depths of the pandemic, has been slowly rebuilding over the past year or so, scheduling a handful of concerts in different locations, most recently at the Northampton Center for the Arts in April.

On July 7, on the lawn outside Forbes Library in Northampton, Flywheel returns with three acts beginning at 5:30 p.m. and running to 8 p.m. — and it’s all free.

Starting things off is Flung, the work of Oakland-based multi-instrumentalist Kashika Kollaikal, who according to Bandcamp “creates channels for feeling. Flung’s music is at once both danceable and meditative, finding motion in stillness and stillness in motion.” Pop, jazz, experimental sounds and more are part of the mix.

Blue Toed is the name of a music project by multi-media artist Nico Lepeska-True of Philadelphia. The artist, according to Flywheel, is a “sample-based explorer, consistently brushing with the heart of dance/moving the core of their tracks from the kick, to the synth lead, to the afterimage of the harmony.”

The Flywheel show concludes with Father Hotep, an Amherst-based artist who offers “black angst, claustrophobic beats, bite sized ballads, [and] performance art.”

Rain date for the show is July 14.


More music on tap


The Marigold Theater in Easthampton will feature indie-folk from Cloudbelly and rock from Grammerhorn Wren tonight (July 1) beginning at 8 p.m.

Folk veteran David Mallet performs July 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington Museum in Hadley as part of the historic home’s Wednesday Folk Traditions series.

House of Hamill brings its folk and Celtic rhythms to the West Whately Chapel July 6 at 7:30 p.m as part of the Watermelon Wednesdays series.

Frankly, The THE BAND Band could do with a less awkward name. But these veteran players do an excellent job channeling the music of The Band, the late 1960s/mid 1970s Americana favorites who were a huge influence on The Eagles, Wilco, and many other groups. They play Race Street Live in Holyoke July 8 at 8 p.m.

More danceable grooves at the Drake: Basher, a New Orleans band of two saxophones, two drumsets, and analog synthesizers, plays a mix of “free avant-pop, post-jazz groove punk, and dance-crazed party music,” according to program notes. The show takes place July 9 at 7 p.m. and includes DJ sets by Basher, Bobby Ganache, and LoSax (DJ+sax man combo.)

Singer-songwriter Elizabeth Rogers and cellist Eugene Fiesen will play original songs and Celtic ballads July 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the UU Society of Amherst. Tickets are available at www.hartsne.org or by calling (413) 345-2917.

At Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield, Fenario, a New England Grateful Dead tribute band, plays July 8 at 8:30 p.m., and veteran Valley rockers John Sheldon and Blue Streak play July 9 at 7:30 p.m.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.