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Last Updated: Monday, 20 February 2006, 00:20 GMT
Lithuania warms to African band
By Laura Sheeter
BBC News, Vilnius

Afroband
Afroband say they are hoping to create a Lithuanian fusion music
It is late on a Friday night in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.

The streets are freezing as the temperature falls to a bone-chilling -20C and it starts to snow.

But inside a small bar in the city centre the rhythms of West Africa are warming a crowd who clap enthusiastically in time to the music.

They have come to see one of the most talked-about new groups in Lithuania - Afroband.

The group is only three months old, but it already has a strong following. Its gigs sell out fast, and its popularity is being fuelled by media coverage.

Rare sight

Afroband has played on national TV and radio several times, providing the music for a political talk show about immigration and jamming live with some of Lithuania's most popular musicians.

It was born here and will grow here
Plazi
lead singer

But it is not just Afroband's music that is getting Lithuanians excited. The group has a remarkable story too.

The band was born in the Pabrade centre for immigrants, home at the time for its four members, who arrived here from Liberia, Nigeria and Togo.

The lead singer has since got a Lithuanian visa and moved out, but the rest of Afroband are still waiting for permission to stay.

In a country whose population is overwhelmingly white, it is rare to see a black person, even in Vilnius.

New immigrants who are starting to arrive in Lithuania from Africa and Asia are often met with amazement on the streets.

The members of Afroband say people tell them they have never seen a black person before.

Plazi, the band's lead singer, says that he thinks exposure to Afroband's music is changing some people's minds about immigrants to Lithuania.

Fusion

"It's hard, there are very few of us here, and for some it is the first time they are seeing black, so you can see through their eyes that they are surprised," he says.

"But what we are doing gives them interest. That's why we have a good relationship with them."

The band members hope that they will eventually all receive permission to stay in Lithuania and build a future. Their band, they say, is not African, but Lithuanian.

"It was born here and will grow here," says Plazi. And, they say, they want to collaborate with other local musicians, to create fusion music.

Whatever the future for their musical career, Afroband's popularity is a sign of change in Lithuania as the country, which is for the first time receiving immigrants from across the world, starts to embrace their cultures as part of its own.


SEE ALSO:
Europe prepares for cultural boost
26 Apr 04 |  Entertainment
Murder of African alarms Russia
26 Dec 05 |  Europe
Country profile: Lithuania
29 Jan 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Lithuania
20 Dec 05 |  Country profiles



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