Mikel Mwalimu-Banks is an interdisciplinary musician, storyteller, and teaching artist. He’s a 20-year member of Burnt Sugar the Arkestra Chamber, and a vocalist for the Afro-Tronic band Digital Diaspora.
A descendant of the Jamaica, Queens lineage of visionary musicians, Mikel has performed with J.T. Lewis, Kenny Martin, and the late Ronnie Drayton. As “DJ Spirithood” alongside the late Michael Adams/“DJ Incognegro”, The Dustbin Brothers collaboration spanned two decades and included the NYC Afropunk Music Festival.
As the vanguard for ensembles in the U.S. and Europe, he was a co-founder of Women In Love, with the late Greg Tate, Helga Davis, and Me’Shell Ndegeocello. Mikel was featured in the spoken word ensemble BluePrint, and the poetic works of Sharrif Simmons, Liza Jesse Peterson, and Jessica Care Moore. As lead vocalist for Drum FM, he performed with Marque Gilmore, being the first Drum & Bass band to play the famed Ronnie Scott’s in London. Mikel was a member of Melvin Van Peebles: Wid Laxatives Band, who played the Sons’ D’Hiver Music Festival in Paris.
In the early aughts, Mikel designed the Goga Cafe Sunday Brunch Series, booking NYC jazz talents such as Marvin Sewell, Donald Smith, and Nioka Workman. Mikel’s savoir-faire included avantgroid artists in NYC’s underground, spearheading events like “Rock and Roll Stew” at the Brooklyn-based Sputnik club, a precursor to Afropunk. Sputnik’s famed artist roster included Kudu, Game Rebellion, Apollo Heights, and Tamar Kali.
He created Mr. Mikel’s “Tot-Rock & Reggae Experience” (Edutainment Rock & Roll & Reggae for Small Children), a musical collection of provocative yet accessible songs designed to support basic elementary-school music education.
In 2020, Mikel was diagnosed with a rare genetic form of Muscular Dystrophy known as FSHD (Facio Scapulo Humeral Muscular Dystrophy). In spite of its impact, Mikel is launching his podcast “Speaklife”, while writing his memoir, which chronicles his adventures as a Black-rock agitator.
He lives in Harlem with his wife, and together they are re-weaving creativity, and inspiration into the story of his diagnosis.