GlobalFEST, the superbly curated concert-avanganza that coincides with the yearly APAP conference in New York City, presented an abundance of world music riches in one evening: a three-stage, three-story, six-hour, twelve-performance musical buffet with something to please every kind of ear, from the novice’s to the connoisseur’s.
I strategically planned in order to experience as much as possible, which was ten of the twelve concerts. Here are a few moments of each (in approximate chronological order) to share a sense of the evening’s amazing dynamics.
The charming, soft-spoken Haitian activist singer-songwriter is known both for having developed his own musical genre called “ragganga” – gentle mixes of Haitian folk roots music, jazz, reggae and pop as well as for a long-standing commitment to social causes. Smooth, upbeat grooves to let the m(usic)arathon begin!
This band of four Irish musicians (two fiddles, guitar, vocals) and one American (piano), all of them virtuosos in their own right, take their name from the word “gloaming”, which refers to the misty interval between sunset and dark. Their sound was indeed a lovely veering between songs full of light and and others of somber intensity, just like the gloaming of the day.
The fiercely charismatic Ravid Kahalani and the Yemen Blues ensemble are a perfect musical storm – musicians of high-level artistry who clearly enjoy sharing forceful grooves that take the beat from Yemen to James Brown to classical and jazz in one fell swoop.
In the twelve-course musical banquet that globalFEST entailed, the delicate sounds of traditional musician Wang Li were a musical palate cleanser, starkly lyrical tunes played both on the mouth harp as well as this song on the Chinese flute that was one of my favorites, practically cinematic in its capacity to evoke magical landscapes.
A lively French songstress, ZAZ is blessed with a delightful spirit and the ease of a veteran performer, which paired with a lush voice that swings into an occasionally Piaf-reminiscent lilt, enchanted easily along with the bluesy, swinging arrangements of her band.
This members of the eight-musician collective are all but one from Colombia, although they have lived in Queens for about a decade. The band takes traditional roots Colombian grooves and propels them with fierce jazzistic punk energy into this century, making the group a psychedelic and contemporary version of last century’s fabulous big bands from Colombia’s Atlantic Coast.
The Cape Verdean songstress’ lovely voice swooped and soared through jazzy tunes that moved from Brazilian samba to jazzy New Orleans swing to delicately funky soulful grooves. A lovely presence on stage, Andrade’s globally textured grooves gave witness to the many lands she experienced growing up in a diplomatic family.
Silk Road Ensemble
Different configurations from the dozen or so musicians from this supergroup graced the largest of globalFEST’s stages in a visual and sonic metaphor for the ancient Silk Road. Founded by maestro Yo Yo Ma, the ensemble connected sounds and instruments from many distant lands and cultures much as the Silk road once did, and in joyful jams found surprising musical common ground between instruments like the Galician bagpipe, the cajón and the tabla.
SMOD stands for the first initials of the names singer-guitarist Samou Bagayoko (son of Malian superstars Amadou & Mariam) and fellow musicans Mouzy, Ousco and Dronsky – although now the band is now a a trio following Mouzy’s departure. It was an upbeat, high-energy set, with SMOD’s harmonizing vocals and rap often reflecting producer Manu Chao’s signature rhythms, making it easy to continue dancing the night away.
The Boston collective led by Danny Mekonnen ended globalFEST 2012 on the highest of notes. Despite the wee hour of the morning, it was impossible to resist their super-danceable homages to Ethiopian sounds from the 70’s that meld traditional Ethiopian grooves, R&B, soul and funk, bombastic horns and most unusually, the accordion.