Short Description:

Percussionist, bassist 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 eclectic Brazilian, Cuban, African 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 and several singles since forming the band, and she is working on releasing the third.

Dawn began her studies in percussion 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, Manmze l(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 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, Quenia Ribiero (Brazilian dance) Rita Silva (Brazilian dance) 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, New Orleans Jazz Festival, The Belize Jazz Festival and a US Embassy sponsored tour in Belize.

She continues to accompany several artists on bass including Juanita Cash, Karikatura, Backa Niang and Oumar Ndiaye. She plays congas for the Boogaloo Funky Latin Soul band Fulaso: and she has been very busy leading her band ZapOte in all its formats from Street Samba to Cuban Conjunto style.

Dawn and her band ZapOte however are very busy on their own. They have played  Brooklyn Academy of Music 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, The Belize Jazz Festival, a US Embassy sponsored tour in Belize and the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, PA

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 and she is also the recipient of a grant award from the Brooklyn Arts Council for work with Brooklyn’s senior community where she taught percussion/rhythm and song.

Dawn also teaches Popular Music of the Caribbean at John Jay College City University of New York.

Dawn’s new single “Salon du coiffure” was just released and can be found on all available platforms:  Spotify, Apple music and CD Baby,, along with all of her other albums. Please check out and like the video for Wake Up! Water is Life! too which addresses the concerns of environmental issues and supporting sustainable energy resources: