Mwenso and The Shakes opens fall season with live concert Sept. 16

Variety of free related community engagement events also planned

UNIVERSITY PARK — The Center for the Performing Arts welcomes students and community members back to live events with “Love Will Be thee Only Weapon,” a free concert by Mwenso and The Shakes.

The high-energy, jazz-funk performance and celebration of Black music will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 16, on the Eisenhower Auditorium patio. Kikora Franklin and dancers will open the evening. In the case of rain, the event will be moved inside the auditorium.

The event is free, but a ticket is required. Read more about the outdoor performance or order tickets at Mwenso and The Shakes, or call 814-863-0255.

Michael Mwenso, an artist-activist and Black music historian, will lead The Shakes in an on-your-feet explosion of sounds and ideas in a kaleidoscope of Black ancestral diasporic music and traditions.

The event is part of the Center for the Performing Arts Fierce Urgency Festival, the center’s commitment to celebrating Black artists and sharing their stories, with a theme this season of “Hope-Resist-Heal.”

Mwenso is a frequent visiting artist at the center. He performed with The Shakes in concert live with the 2019 “Harlem 100” production and virtually in the 2020–21 season. Together with producer Jono Gasparro, Mwenso formed Electric Root, a company they describe as “a new model for Black music.”

“Black music was sacred before commercialization. We want to get people back to understanding music as something that nourishes the soul.” — Jono Gasparro, co-founder with Michael Mwenso of Electric Root

Franklin is an associate professor of theater/dance and associate director of equity, diversity and inclusion in the Penn State School of Theatre. She teaches courses on West African, jazz and Mojah dance as well as hip-hop theater. She is artistic director of Roots of Life, a dance program for State College-based young people.

Patricia Best and Thomas Ray, Nancy Gamble, and Nancy J. Wolf sponsor the Mwenso and The Shakes concert.

Related engagement events

  • “Inside the Music” is a stripped-down, acoustic experience featuring Mwenso and The Shakes that allows the individual artists to showcase their talents through music that celebrates Black traditions. The free public event is part of 3 Dots Downtown’s Tuesdays on the Terrace series, which begins at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 14, and features a variety of artists. Mwenso and The Shakes is scheduled to perform in the third hour. The event, at the corner of Beaver Avenue and Pugh Street, will include a spoken-word presentation by Charles Dumas, Penn State School of Theatre professor emeritus, professional actor, director, writer and artist. Guests are required to sign in and verify their full COVID-19 vaccination status. Masks are also required. Visit for more information.
  • Mwenso and vocalist Vuyo Sotashe will host “Coming Out in America” at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 15, in LL011 HUB-Robeson Center. In the free one-hour informal conversation, the artists — Mwenso born in Sierra Leone and Sotashe in South Africa — will discuss how Black cultural icons have helped the two negotiate their LGBTQ+ identities while living in the United States. The conversation will include their musical influences and the history of Black queer artists. The public event is in partnership with the Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Contact Center for the Performing Arts Student Engagement Manager Hope Falk at for more information.

Visit fall 2021 for more information on the season events.

Safety first

The Center for the Performing Arts has health and safety of our patrons in mind. Penn State requires that masks be worn in all University buildings and emphasizes its commitment to cleaning and ventilating its spaces. In addition, the center will position contactless ticketing kiosks and hand-sanitizing stations throughout the venues.

Penn State has issued rules and precautions that follow, or may exceed, guidance from the Centers for Disease Control issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Visit Penn State Event Attendance Policies prior to attending a University event to ensure you are familiar with the rules and expectations.

Find the Center for the Performing Arts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.