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Duke Arts Presents

Mwenso & The Shakes

Saturday, September 26, 2020 | 8:00 pm

Duke Performances is excited to present our Virtual Fall season – The Show Must Go Online! High-quality, commissioned films featuring artists originally slated for in-person performances will premiere on Vimeo for ticket holders. Each film, shot following local safety protocols, is made in collaboration with an audio and video crew in each artist’s home city. 

General admission tickets are $10 per presentation and Duke Student tickets are available free of charge through the support of the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts at Duke University. Before the premiere, ticket buyers will receive a unique Vimeo link to stream each performance online at the scheduled time. After the conclusion of the premiere, films will be available for viewing for 24 hours.


New York-based Michael Mwenso is a musical polymath who spent his teens as James Brown’s understudy. In 2007, he organized a late-night jam session at the famed London jazz club, Ronnie Scott’s, which led to Wynton Marsalis handpicking him to be musician and curator at Jazz at Lincoln Center. Entrenched in the company of a few dozen talented Harlem-based musicians, Mwenso soon found the ten musicians that became The Shakes.

Mwenso & The Shakes specialize in musical code-switching, freely adopting and repurposing the drama, whimsy, and spirit of the Great American Songbook, African beats, funk, modern jazz, dance pop, Delta blues, and cabaret theater with equal, effortless verve. The Shakes’ vocalist, Brianna Thomas, describes Mwenso’s Harlem-based dectet as, “theater meets opera meets James Brown meets jazz meets total improvisation.” Pulling from, among other material, its 2019 live debut, Emergence [The Process of Coming Into Being] — which NPR Music hailed as “an explosion of ideas and sounds wrapped around familiar instrumentation” — the band brings a vibrant and powerful set to Duke Performances’ virtual season.

— Eric Tullis


Student tickets for Duke Performances’ Virtual Fall season are made possible through generous support from the Provost and the Vice Provost for the Arts at Duke University.

Mwenso & The Shakes at Paste Studios NYC

“...A unique troupe of global artists presenting music that merges entertainment and artistry.”