Short Description:

Bassist, conguera, and singer-songwriter Dawn Drake leads her worldbeat-meets-funk 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:

An active musician in New York City’s World, Brazilian, Cuban and Women’s music scenes, Dawn Drake started her career as an electric bass player and percussionist. Now she is most well known for her creative ensemble “Dawn Drake & ZapOte” which was formed to play her original compositions and arrangements. She has released two albums since forming the band, and she is working on releasing the third, due out in November of 2016.

Dawn began traveling and studying world music through the UC Berkeley Study Abroad Program in Ghana, West Africa where she lived for a year. Upon moving to NYC, she started to play bass and percussion with The Black Rock Coalition’s Nina Simone Tribute, Geoff Mann, The Femm Nameless, Samba New York, Cyro Baptista’s Beat the Donkey, Manmzel(an all-female Haitian Kompa band), Azouhouni Adou and others. During this time she also acquired an MA in Ethnomusicology at the City University of New York’s Graduate Center.

Dawn studied and played Afro-Cuban percussion including the sacred Batá drums in New York and Cuba, as well as samba percussion in Brazil, where she played in Rio de Janiero’s Carnaval.  She is one of very few female Batá  players in the US and has played percussion and bass with many well known Cuban artists such as Pupy Insua, Stevie Insua and Amelia Pedroso and Danny Rojo. She continues to accompany Afro-Cuban dance classes for Noibis Licea and others at the world-renowned Alvin Ailey Dance studio in Manhattan.

She has also shared the stage with Me’shell N’degeocello, Trey Anastasio, Chico Mann, members of Antibalas, Carol Steele, The Wailers, Karl Perazzo of Santana, Edwin Bonilla of Gloria Estefan, Maya Azucena and Roberto Vizcaino.  She has appeared on The CBS Early Show, Telemundo TV, PBS, WBAI, and played stages such as Symphony Space, SOB’s, The Zinc Bar, Rockefeller Center’s Rainbow Room, Radio City Music Hall, Brooklyn Academy of Music CAFE, The Walker Art Center, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, and the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

Of late, she accompanies several West African artists on Bass, most notably, Oumar Ndiaye from Senegal whose music was produced by Youssou Ndour.

Dawn Drake and her band ZapOte have performed live on Channel 56 in Manhattan  ( as well as CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s live radio show entitled “Audiofiles”; WBAI in NYC, KPFA Pacifica Radio in Berkeley, KUSP in Santa Cruz, and WTJU in Charlottesville. They were featured performers at BAMCafe Live in 2007, 2010 and 2015, the multi-city Bluemont Concert Series in Virginia 2008, the Wisteria Cornstalk Festival and Culturefest WV in 2009, the Downtown Berkeley Music Festival in 2009 and 2010, the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Chili Pepper Festival in 2010, Iowa Women’s Music Festival 2011, Third Street Music Festival Concert Series 2012 & 2013, SisterSpace Weekend 2013, Danbury Concerts on the Green 2014, Frauenstimmen Festival in Switzerland in 2014, Mamapalooza 2015, Prospect Heights Music and Art Festival 2015 and Arts East NY Summer Concert Series 2016 as well as bookings at prominent clubs Subrosa, Brooklyn Bowl and Bowery Electric.

This year, 2017 Dawn Drake & ZapOte have been invited to perform at the Belize International Jazz Festival in May as well as the Festival del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba in July.

Dawn was the recipient of the Lulu May and Richard Von Hagen Scholarship for her studies at  California Institute of the Arts Performer/Composer program where she completed her MFA in Composition and Performance in December 2015.

She is also the recipient of a grant award from the Brooklyn Arts Council for work with Brooklyn’s senior community.

Dawn has  just recently joined the adjunct faculty at John Jay College of Criminal Justice where she will be teaching Popular Music of the Caribbean.

Dawn’s 2 full-length albums are available on CD Baby,, as well as on itunes on