From left, Peter Macon, Clive Bean and Lucas Hieronymus will perform in Saturday's Afro-Beat Lounge at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar. - Photo by Julia Moore

Peter Macon lays down the beat

It's impulsive. It's propulsive. It's experimental and raw, and there's nothing in the area like it, says Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor Peter Macon about Afro-Beat Lounge at Alex's Plaza Restaurant and Bar.

Macon, who is in his fifth season with OSF — he's played lead roles in "To Kill a Mockingbird," "The African Company Presents Richard III," "Macbeth," "Othello" and others — recognized the need for a sophisticated, safe, nonpop dance space in Southern Oregon like the ones in New York and San Francisco, where he previously lived.

A few months back, he and Clive Bean, a deejay from Johannesburg and sound-engineering resident at OSF, got together to share music.

"In Johannesburg, there's a huge Afro-beat movement where you have these giant parties with thousands of people that would go on for days," Macon says.

The pair conceived the idea of Afro-Beat Lounge and pitched it to Charles Tobey, co-owner of Alex's.

Afro-Beat Lounge is a spinoff of The Vinyl Club's Soul Sundays, featuring a handful of local deejays who love analog soul music and play deep house music and a lot of James Brown.

The Afro-Beat Lounge features live musicians on percussion and horns playing over, under and with the mix.

Bean's equipment allows him to drop the bass, speed up or slow down the tracks, add more treble, reverb and effects and manipulate the sound to showcase the musicians.

"It's about the music," Macon says. "It's about listening, feeling and dancing."

Afro-beat music can be sourced to one man, Nigerian multi-instrumentalist Fela Kuti. Kuti combined soul, jazz, Afro-Cuban and Ghanaian and Nigerian highlife influences into a hyperpolitical, polyrhythmic funk blend that spoke to the people, Macon says.

"I got turned on to his (Kuti's) music when I was 16 and haven't let go," he says. "I snuck into a club (in Minneapolis) when I was 15 or 16 and saw him play. He refused to stop playing, and they had to pull the plug."

Bean and Macon along with Frankie Hernandez, Lucas Hieronymus and local musicians held Alex's first Afro-Beat Lounge Aug. 3. Macon says it was a full house.

The next Afro-Beat Lounge will be at 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Alex's, 35 N. Main St., Ashland. Bean and Rod Mehringer will deejay, Macon and Hieronymus will play percussion (congas, shekeres, djembe, claves, bells, tambourines), and there will be saxophone and trumpet players.

You can dance until you're hot and sweaty and then "go out on the back deck with your margarita to cool off," Macon says.

The cover charge to Afro-Beat Lounge is $5. Call 541-482-8818.

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