Afromondo Productions

Alex Boicel

Alex Boicel is one of the world’s leading independent promoters and the creative force behind many well-known festivals worldwide.  Alex’s passion for music has fueled his decades-long career as a producer, manager, agent and consultant, leading him to work with some of the greatest luminaries of the international entertainment industry where he has become known as an innovator.   Over the years Alex has gained a wealth of experience and ingenuity which he infuses into all of his productions including a successful music television show, ‘Soul of Africa’, which ran for three years on the American cable channel BET J.  ‘Soul of Africa’ featured music videos from the African Diaspora and was syndicated on VH1; sadly it was cancelled in 2009 when BET J was rebranded as Centric.  After the cancellation of the show Alex decided to refocus his efforts on music festivals and artists representation.  He currently serves as artistic director and consultant for several international festivals as well as musical director of Farafina Café Harlem and curator for the world music series at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, where he is based. 

Alex had his first taste of the music industry when he was just sixteen years old.  Full of dreams of ‘making it big’, he left his family home in French Guiana to join his father, music impresario, Doudou Boicel, in Montreal, Canada.  Doudou was the owner of one of the country’s most internationally renowned jazz and blues nightclubs, The Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club.  Working alongside his father and constantly surrounded by music titans such as Nina Simone, Dizzy Gillespie, B.B. King and Willie Dixon who made up Doudou’s entourage, Alex discovered his passion for music and threw himself into his work, quickly learning the tricks of the trade.  By the age of nineteen, after having obtained a diploma as a chef from the Hotel Management Institute, Alex opened his own restaurant-nightclub next door to the Rising Sun.  However, in order not to compete with his father’s club, he decided to focus on presenting Caribbean, African and Latin music while serving up the delicious Creole cuisine that his mother had taught him to make; he called the club Café Creole.  Café Creole was the first venue in Montreal to feature live ‘world music’ long before that term had been introduced into the industry and it quickly became a hotspot with international students from the nearby universities continuing to grow and thrive for seven years.  However, in 1978, two years after the opening of the Café Creole, Doudou founded Montreal’s first jazz festival at Place des Arts which became an instant success and marked a crucial turning point in the direction of Alex’s career –his first experience working at an international festival.  

After closing the café, Alex began working various jobs as a DJ, actor and independent promoter on the Montreal club scene.  It was then that he met Korkor Amarteifio, founder and director of the Rythmes du Monde Festival.  Korkor immediately recognized Alex’s potential and hired him as a booking agent for the festival where honed his skills in large scale event production.  In 1987 Alex founded the Nuits D’Afrique Festival in partnership with his close friend, Lamine Toure.  Shortly after the third edition of the festival, Alex permanently relocated to New York City but continued to serve as programming director and later artistic consultant for Nuits d’Afrique for several years, eventually touring the bands he booked at the festival across Europe, the Americas and Africa. 

Upon arriving in New York Alex was quickly hired by Third World Agency under Larry Gold, owner of the renowned world music venue, S.O.B. (Sounds of Brazil).  This marked the beginning of his longstanding professional relationship with the venue which endures today.  Alex embraced his job at Third World, learning to negotiate artist contracts with labels such as Island Records, Shanachie and Stern’s and working in-house as a programmer at S.O.B. where he launched several concert series including Martinique Day which has continued for over fifteen years.  During that time Alex began producing shows for and touring high profile groups including, Loketo, Tabou Combo, Kassav’, Tabouley Rochereau, Papa Wemba, Pepe Kalle, Lucky Dube, Ismael Lo, Omar Pene, Alpha Blondy and Tiken Jah Fakoly to name a few.  However, Alex felt an increasing desire to found his own agency and festival in order to connect the African Diaspora in the United States and promote its vast culture and music according to his own vision.

So, in 1992 Alex founded the Africa Mondo Agency, which was later rebranded as ‘Afromondo Productions’.  Then 1993 he launched the Africa Mondo Festival in Brooklyn which became wildly popular, attracting over ten thousand people on its first day.  (Even after his eventual departure from the festival and its assimilation into the larger Celebrate Brooklyn Concert Series, it remained the most highly attended event in that series until the African line-up was cancelled in 2010 due to funding cuts.) By 1994 Alex’s name was firmly established in the international music industry and he was contacted to supply thirty drummers and dancers for the Rolling Stones ‘Voodoo Lounge Tour’, a three month contract which catapulted his career into hyperdrive.  The experience gained producing his own festival followed by a tour of this caliber soon brought in offers from far and wide and Alex took contracts as artistic director, talent buyer, booking agent and consultant for numerous festivals in countries around the globe including, the St Lucia Jazz Festival and Heineken Kalalu World Music Festival in St Lucia, the World Creole Music Festival in Dominica, Terre de Blues  in Marie-Galante, Guadeloupe, the Anguilla Jazz Festival, FESMAN Festival in Senegal and Kayenn Jazz in French Guiana where he served as music director; and the Festival del Caribe in Colombia where he served as executive programming director (and greatly influenced the evolution of Champeta music by introducing Congolese artists to Colombian Champeta artists); as well as numerous festivals in the United States, Canada, Belgium, Morocco, Cote d’Ivoire, Martinique and St Barts.

Looking to the future, Alex’s latest endeavors offer new opportunities to showcase up-and-coming talents in jazz and world music arenas.  Harlem, with its richly steeped Black heritage and new influx of African immigrants, serves not only as his adopted home, but as a deeply symbolic place.  Alex feels that as the meeting ground of American and African music and culture, Harlem represents the synthesis of his roots, influences and all the experience he has gained thus far.  As such, his new vision includes evolving Farafina Café Harlem which he founded in 2011 with his partner, Yacouba Cisse, and for which he currently serves musical director.  On a global scale his projects include curating a monthly Caribbean jazz concert series in Guadeloupe; consulting for the Mawazine Festival in Morocco and acting as executive booking agent for the Terre de Blues Festival in Marie-Galante, Guadeloupe and the Green Moon Festival in San Andres, Colombia. And, he looks forward to producing the Festival Mondial de Musique des Femmes in Montreal for the third year, alongside his close friend and festival director, Charly Maiwan.  Alex also remains a tour manager for several high profile artists and continues to curate shows for African and Caribbean headliners at the Apollo Theatre. He has recently begun an alliance as the programming director for international headliners with the Voces del Jazz Festival in Cartagena and the Green Moon Festival in San Andres, Colombia where he is certain to innovate.