Short Description:

Percussionist, bassist and singer-songwriter Dawn Drake leads her Global South ensemble ZapOte, which breaks down cultural barriers by incorporating everything from Afro-Cuban jazz to hip-hop to samba into a soul-shaking mix. Deep bass grooves and swinging horn lines provide a danceable backdrop for Drake’s socially conscious lyrics, which impart messages of universal consciousness, empowerment, and compassion.

Dawn studied and played congas and sacred Batá drums in Cuba, and samba percussion in Brazil, She also plays bass with many international groups namely from West Africa and the Caribbean. She and her group perform globally and you can find her music at, as well as on Amazon and iTunes. You can sign up for her newsletter here on this site as well as on Facebook at

Full Biography:


Artist Dawn Drake: Bass, Vocals, Percussion Composition/Songwriter.

Originally from the Appalachian Trail in Virginia, Dawn Drake is an active musician in NYC’s eclectic music scene. She is a percussionist, bass player, singer and composer/songwriter who leads the band ZapOte, a “Global South” ensemble which breaks down cultural barriers by incorporating everything from Afro-Cuban jazz to hip-hop to samba into a soul-shaking mix with her original lyrics that focus on love, empathy, environmental concerns as well as economic, racial, gender and social justice themes and unity.

She studied percussion first in Ghana, then went on to pursue Afro-Cuban batá and conga drumming in Cuba and in NYC, as well as samba percussion in Brazil. She holds a Masters degree in Ethnomusicology and an MFA in Composition and Performance from California Institute of the Arts.  Currently, in addition to directing ZapOte, she also plays bass and congas with several artists from around the globe and she is a regular accompanist at Alvin Ailey and Mark Morris Dance Theaters. She is a Professor of Caribbean Music at John Jay College as well as a teaching artist and performer for the US Embassy, NYC public schools and the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and Brooklyn Arts Council focusing on programs that celebrate diversity, global rhythm, youth and women’s empowerment through music.

Dawn performs globally with her group ZapOte and you can find her original music that she wrote, arranged and performed at as well as on SpotifyApple Music and Youtube (Artist: Dawn Drake)  Her three full-length albums are also available on CD Baby,, and represent a partial list of her diverse palate of sounds which have been described as “playful” Global Groove dance music.

Recently Dawn Drake & ZapOte have performed at The Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, the Frauenstimmen Festival in Switzerland, The Belize International Jazz Festival and a US Embassy sponsored tour in Belize, the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Concert Series, HONK NYC Concert Series, Maplewood, NJ Concert Series, as well as Union Township Music Series. The group is releasing a new album called Nightshade on November 1st, 2019.

The theme of “Nightshade” the album is to explore darkness: miscommunication and disappointment as well as seasonal darkness, death of a relationship or person, emotional fog as well as the dream state or other altered states.

A music video series will soon follow. The videos will focus on the beauty of darkness, for example as personified by the deity Oya in the song “Oya de Zarija” which draws on one of the Yoruba songs and rhythms from Cuba. Other themes of the videos will highlight the necessity of darkness for rebirth, re-invention and creation and give hope to those going through bleak times. It will also look at some of the challenges of modern communication that women face in relationships as far as having unreached expectations, the pressure to “have it all” or conversely, loneliness and depression. The series will offer solutions in the form of female collaboration, friendship and professional inspiration. Some of the imagery will draw upon universal female icons such as Kali, Oya, Ishtar and Zarija, all of whom are spiritual icons known as leaders, warriors, gatekeepers and sorcerers who align with the forces of nature. The female ensemble ZapOte will be featured performers in this video series as well as on the album.