Small bites: Soumu showcases the tastes and sounds of Africa

BRINGING THE BEAT: Adama Dembele arrived to Asheville in 2005. Since that time he has worked with LEAF Schools & Streets, sharing his music and culture with students of all ages. Photo by KMG Photography

Soce Diop will serve traditional African plates at the fourth annual Soumu — an African celebration combining food, music and dance. Among the items on the menu are maffe (peanut soup with tomatoes, potatoes, bell peppers, sweet potatoes and garlic), jollof rice (a mix of cabbage, eggplant, yucca, carrots and tomatoes over red rice), as well as servings of roasted chicken, lamb and fish.

Soumu got its start in 2011 as a fundraiser. Having arrived in Asheville in 2005 to perform with the Asheville-based band Toubab Krewe, Adama Dembele eventually sought financial support to obtain his green card.  “He felt a strong connection … and decided to make Asheville his home,” says Ryan Reardon, bass player for Dembele’s band, Zansa.  The inaugural event was a success, raising enough money to cover Dembele’s legal fees.

This year’s celebration will help fund construction for the new Djembeso Drum and Dance Education Center in Bamako, Mali, West Africa. In early 2015, the Ivory Coast government demolished the previous space, in addition to the Dembele family home. “[It] was a place for people of all ages to study drumming, dance and learn about West African culture,” says Reardon.

Zansa is among the numerous acts scheduled to perform at this year’s Soumu. The Asheville-based group blends African folk music with modern Afropop, African drumming and zouglou (dance-oriented, Ivorian street music). Other performers include Les Amix, the Imani School of Dance, Kevin “KalimbaMan” Spears and Dembele’s student drummers from LEAF. In addition to the music and dance, an African marketplace and an arts and crafts section will also be part of the celebration.

“The Dembele household has been a link between Asheville and West Africa for over a decade,” says Reardon. “Once this compound is rebuilt, we will set up a program for Ashevilleans to travel there and study this rich music and culture.”

Soumu: An African Celebration of Music, Food and Dance runs 5-11 p.m. Friday, Sept. 16, at Salvage Station, 468 Riverside Drive. The event is free and open to all ages. Food will be $10 per plate; vegan and vegetarian options are available. For details, visit and

Westlake Wines open on Merrimon Avenue

North Asheville is about to get a new wine store — Westlake Wines officially opens on Thursday, Sept. 15. “We’re doing only boutique, curated wine collections and large-format bottled beer,” says owner James West. The shop also offers stock totes from Seltzer Goods and tins of coffee beans from Brooklyn Roasting Co., as well as glassware and wine tools. Wine tastings and monthly wine classes are in the works.

Westlake Wines is at 1020 Merrimon Ave. Hours will be noon-8 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and noon-4 p.m. Sunday-Monday. For more information, follow @westlakewines on Instagram and Twitter.

Cupcakes for a Cause at The Fresh Market

The Fresh Market continues its national partnership with No Kid Hungry as it hosts its fourth annual Cupcakes for a Cause campaign through Tuesday, Sept. 20. To help fight childhood hunger, The Fresh Market will sell paper cupcakes  for $1 at its checkout counters with each one sold providing 10 healthy meals for a child in need. Also as part of the initiative, The Fresh Market will sell gourmet cupcakes of the edible variety. One dollar from each single cupcake sold and $2 from each four-pack sold will benefit No Kid Hungry.

Cupcakes for a Cause campaign runs through Tuesday, Sept. 20. The Cupcake Bakery Sale runs Wednesday, Sept. 14, through Tuesday, Sept. 20. The Fresh Market has locations at 944 Merrimon Ave. and 1378 Hendersonville Road in Asheville and 223 Greenville Highway in Hendersonville.  For details visit,

Rhubarb makes Food Network’s top burgers list

Rhubarb’s Rhu Burger is featured on the Food Network’s recent list of 51 Top Burgers from Coast to Coast. It’s in tasty company, too: Sean Brock’s Husk in Charleston, S.C., Keith NcNally’s Minetta Tavern in New York City and Au Cheval in Chicago are also highlighted. Rhubarb chef and owner John Fleer — a four-time James Beard Award finalist — is recognized in the piece as one of Asheville’s “hottest chefs.” The article on the network’s website goes on to praise the locally sourced ingredients that go into his two seared and stacked patties.

To view the entire list, visit

Hendersonville chef named Chef of the Year

Jesse Roque, the executive chef at Hendersonville’s Never Blue, recently won the title of the North Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association’s Chef of the Year. Roque competed against 12 other chefs at the NCRLA Chef Showdown in Raleigh on Aug. 29, taking home wins for Most Creative Presentation and Best Use of Got To Be NC Ingredient in the savory category. Her dish of candied peach and mustard-glazed pork cheek tostada showcased products and produce from North Carolina purveyors, including Asheville’s own Lusty Monk and Milkco Inc., as well as Hendersonville’s Grow Water Farms and Johnson Family Farms.

For information on Never Blue, visit

About Thomas Calder
Thomas Calder received his MFA in Fiction from the University of Houston's Creative Writing Program. He has worked with several publications, including Gulf Coast and the Collagist.

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.