FARMINGTON — A variety of familiar Led Zeppelin tunes infused with African beats will fill the Historic Aztec Theater Friday night.

AfroZep, a band based in Chicago, will perform at Crash Music on Friday and lead a workshop on Saturday. The workshop will feature the song "Over the Hills and Far Away" and will end with a performance by the band.

George Rowe, the owner of Crash Music, was looking at festivals in the area for bands he could bring to Crash Music. He looked at Cedar City, Utah's Groovefest website and saw a link to AfroZep.

He said he clicked on the link expecting to laugh at the fusion group because, in his experience, fusion groups often don't know the two types of music well enough to blend them together.

Fusion band AfroZep performs during a concert in this undated publicity photo.
Fusion band AfroZep performs during a concert in this undated publicity photo. (Courtesy of Crash Music)

To his surprise, AfroZep was able to accomplish that feat and he contacted them about performing at Crash Music.

"We can't help but love Led Zeppelin," Rowe said.

He added that he and Sue Rys, the co-owner, grew up listening to Led Zeppelin.

Rowe is really looking forward to the workshop Sunday and has invited bassists, horn players, guitarists and other musicians to attend. He said he is planning on forming an Afrobeat band in the Aztec area. He hopes to recruit people at the workshop for the band.

During the workshop, the different instruments will work separately in groups and come together at the end for a performance.

Like the band Rowe is trying to start, AfroZep originally formed as a Chicago band that focused on performing in the Chicago area.

Around five years ago, a member with the Chicago Afrobeat Project, contacted two other musicians, including bassist and singer Ryan Behling, in order to form the band AfroZep.

Behling started his singing as a child in church and in school plays.

"It's kind of always been a part of me," he said.

After getting a college degree in music, Behling made it his profession.

The first song the group did was "Ramble On." Behling said this song is still part of their 30 song repertoire.


What: AfroZep concert

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Where: Crash Music in the Historic Aztec Theater, 104 N. Main Ave.

Tickets: $12

What: AfroZep workshop

When: 10 a.m. Saturday

More info: 505-427-6748

The group was going to do a few shows around Chicago, but, years later, they have expanded and are touring.

AfroZep has three core members in addition to a rhythm section from the Seneke West African Percussion Ensemble, from Chicago, and a horn section made up of Chicago jazz musicians. During any individual concert, the group could be joined by anywhere from 10 to 15 other musicians, who also tour with them.

Since joining AfroZep, Behling has worked with authentic African musicians to transform Led Zeppelin songs.

When presenting, Behling and the other AfroZep members try to educate people about the rhythms. They will inform the audience where certain rhythms come from.

"Before I was educated about this, it seemed like you could lump African music into one thing," he said.

Now he said he has learned that each region has different styles.

Behling himself prefers the "highlight" style of African rhythms. He said people might recognize this upbeat style from Paul Simon's "Graceland" album in the 1980s.

In addition to the highlight style, Behling enjoys the "Tinariwen" influence from the Touareg people of Mali. Tinariwen is a band from Mali that started in 1979 in Algeria due to the violence in Mali. Once a cease fire was called in Mali, the band returned to their homeland. In the early 2000s, it began to gain popularity. This style has been one of the major influences for AfroZep.

The Touareg are semi-nomadic people and Tinariwen's music is played with traditional percussion as well as electric guitar.

Behling said it is easier than people initially think to add African rhythms to Led Zeppelin songs due to the band's international influences. Some of the later albums included rhythms from around the world.

"The hardest part, I would say, is to make one song fit into another," Behling said.

Hannah Grover covers news, arts and religion for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652 and Follow her @hmgrover on Twitter.