Smile Politely

Afro D & Global Soundwaves connects Champaign-Urbana community through music

A musician is playing a trumpet, tilting his head back with eyes closed in a moment of musical fervor. He wears a patterned, short-sleeved shirt that features traditional African designs. The background is a deep black, providing a stark contrast that highlights the musician and his instrument. The lighting casts a focused glow on him, emphasizing his expressive performance and the gleaming brass of the trumpet.
Afro D at 2023 ACE Awards

Afro D & Global Soundwaves is a hip-hop/jazz/funk band based in the Champaign-Urbana area that was formed in 2019. Afro D & Global Soundwaves’ six band members consist of founder Pete “Afro D” Shungu, who rhymes and plays the trumpet. Next is Lawrence Parks, the alto saxophone musician, Jamie Mauck, the drummer, Mitchell Killough, the bassist, Brighton Sier, the keyboardist, and J’Lyn Hope, who covers the vocals. Their songs focus on socially conscious topics and rhetoric, intending to bring people of all ages together through their music. My first impression of Shungu was that he had a kind smile and a magnetic personality. During the one-hour interview I had with him at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts lobby, numerous University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign students and colleagues took the time to greet Shungu warmly, with Shungu offering a friendly response each time. Shungu is not only a solo artist, a band founder, and frontman, but he is also a Teaching Assistant Professor of Music Education at the U of I.

Shungu was born in New Jersey to his mother, who is from Kansas, and his father, who hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Africa. He became interested in learning how to play the trumpet in fifth grade after attending a college camp in New Jersey that hosted a “Meet the Instruments” class that featured the trumpet. In sixth grade, Shungu started to write poetry. While growing up in the 90s, Shungu enjoyed listening to hip-hop and underground-style music. He went to college in Boston where he started to write raps and record music, however, it was not until after college that Afro D came to life. When I asked Shungu about how he combined his trumpet playing, MCing, and spoken word poetry skills into his musical identity as Afro D, he responded, “All [of the skills] are a part of the same tree, they are different branches of the same tree.”

This is a photo of a band on stage. The band consists of six members, each holding a different instrument. The instruments include a guitar, a saxophone, a trumpet, a trombone, a bass guitar, and a drum set. The band members are standing in front of a brick wall with green stage lights shining down on them. The band members are wearing casual clothing, with one member wearing a Mastodon t-shirt.
Afro D and the Global Soundwaves on Facebook

Due to his multicultural background and love of travel, Shungu is trilingual in English, Spanish, and French. I asked him about how being trilingual influences his music and lyrics. Shungu views it as an opportunity to rap about the power of having different experiences. He elaborated by quoting Gandhi and adding his own spin to it by saying, “‘Be the change you wish to see in the world,’… but I also think you have to see the world before you can change it.” Shungu also explained that he writes lyrics in English, Spanish, and French to cast a wider net demographically and to help him make music that speaks to a larger event or cause. I then asked Shungu about how he incorporates his African heritage into his music, and Shungu informed me about a piece he wrote several years ago called “Africa,” which is a song that focuses on breaking down African stereotypes and depicting African culture and people in a positive light. 

I inquired what rewards and challenges came with writing socially-conscious music. The rewards include reaching people from a variety of backgrounds and educating them. Some challenges include getting backlash about the content of the music from time to time. Shungu details, “Speaking truth to power has gotten backlash… but it has never been the kids, it’s always the adults.” In my opinion, this quote was the least controversial one Shungu said during the entire interview! It’s always the adults, isn’t it? *Sigh, big eye roll.* 

Three individuals pose for a photo in a brightly lit space with yellow-tiled walls. On the left, a person is seated on a yellow chair, holding a saxophone, wearing a black button-up shirt and black pants. In the middle, another individual is seated, holding a trumpet, and dressed in a patterned shirt and grey pants. On the right, a person stands leaning slightly towards the person in the middle, wearing glasses and a burgundy cardigan over a black top, with black pants. The background features standard fixtures of a public space, including informational posters on the wall and a hand sanitizing station.
Robyne Glass

Although Shungu does occasionally perform solo as Afro D, he stated during the interview, “I feel more in my element performing with a band at this stage in life.” The stage in life Shungu refers to is being married and having numerous children. After living in Boston and Calimo, Mexico for a time, Shungu and his wife decided to settle down in the Champaign-Urbana area to raise a family. Shungu decided to join a local band called Nuclei, which played reggae and soul music. One day in 2019, Shungu decided to form his own band, and recruited Mitchell Killough to join his band as the bassist. Killough agreed, making him the first band member to join Afro D & Global Soundwaves. 

When I asked Shungu about how the band writes socially conscious music that appeals to younger and older audiences, he identified three different categories of songs that the band plays. The first category is original songs, which is the largest of the three categories. The original songs have lyrics written by Shungu and music written collaboratively by all band members and are classified as being hip-hop/jazz. The second category is remix songs, which is when Afro D & Global Soundwaves takes an existing song and makes it their own. The third category is cover songs, which is when the band plays songs that already exist, but make them their own in the process.

Shungu explained that the three different song categories: socially-conscious lyrics, attempting to break down barriers, and not being limited by genre boundaries. This allows Afro D & Global Soundwaves’ music to be reached by people of all ages and backgrounds. I asked Shungu which song of theirs resonates most with the band’s mission, and Shungu talked about three songs, one of their newer songs called “Power in Numbers” another one of their original songs called “Superpuissance,” and lastly, the song titled “Say Peace.” 

A band is performing on stage in an indoor venue with warm lighting. On the left, a drummer is seated at a drum set, intently playing. To the right of the drummer is a bass guitarist, standing and strumming his instrument. In the center, a musician is passionately singing into a microphone, crouching down with one hand extended outward. On the far right, a saxophonist holds his saxophone to his side and stands attentively. The stage is equipped with microphones, cables, and speakers. Behind the performers, a brick wall and a series of recessed lights set the backdrop, while a wood-paneled ceiling with additional lighting fixtures extends overhead.
Anna Longworth Singer

“Power in Numbers” shouts out the band members in the second verse and the theme is essential to what they want to do with their music: Bring people from different communities together. “Superpuissance,” which is a French word that means superpower in English, is performed in French and Spanish, and Afro D & Global Soundwaves collaborate with a Congolese and a Latinx artist when playing this song. Afro D & Global Soundwaves is passionate about highlighting multicultural and multiracial identities. Lastly, “Say Peace” was written by the band and illustrates that the individual band members’ vision of the band is aligned. The content of the piece causes people to reflect. 

The future goals of the band are continuing to do live shows, building more connections in the music world, doing more all-ages shows/shows in a musical environment without alcohol, and recording their music. Shungu is currently hosting a Black History Month series called Certified Organic at the Gallery Art Bar every Thursday this month at 7:30 p.m. and admission is free. The band’s next show is also at Gallery Art Bar with D’Funk and the Grease Monkeys on March 27th

Shungu told me that Afro D & Global Soundwaves aims to intentionally create a musical environment where everyone in Champaign-Urbana feels welcome and can connect with others. This band has fantastic original music, talented band members, good energy, is passionate about social issues, and wants to help bridge gaps within the community. Please support Afro D & Global Soundwaves and their incredible music and mission by going to their shows and purchasing their merchandise, you will not be disappointed!

You can find out more about Afro D and the Global Soundwaves on Facebook, Instagram, and their website

Afro D and Special Guests
Gallery Art Bar
Th February 22nd + 29th, 7:30 p.m.

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