“Worlds and music meet, in euphoric result” – NY Times
Cultural guardians and ebullient party bands. Soul divas and avant-cabaret performers. Music that addresses current headlines, and sounds that summon age-old traditions.
For one night, New York’s Webster Hall becomes home to all of these ideas and to the many faces and offshoots of world music, as globalFEST returns for its 13th edition on Sunday, January 17, 2016. The annual showcase festival, the flagship project of a rapidly expanding organization that serves the performing arts field, gives an instant entry point into the powerfully diverse, wide-ranging world of global music, from the electronic to the edgy, the beloved to the wonderfully unfamiliar.
The Artists of globalFEST 2016 (globalfest.org)
Extravagant Mexican cabaret with soulful songs and outrageous visuals
Russian mafia ballads get a New Orleans punk makeover
Masterful dancer Melaku Belay leads Ethiopia’s traditional music revival
Vintage Paris chic meets New York cool in swinging electro-beats
Lakou Mizik (NY Debut)
Powerhouse collective invigorating Haitian roots and grooves
The defiant cry of Ukraine, reinventing traditional songs
Music Maker Blues Revue
Blues that made America famous
Robert Lee Coleman replaces Pat Cohen, who will be unable to appear
Simon Shaheen’s Zafir
A reuniting of Arab Andalucian music and fiery flamenco
Lush Afrobeat inspired jazz, soul, and pop
Stelios Petrakis Quartet
Inimitable virtuosos from Crete weaving melodies across the Greek islands
The Dhol Foundation:
UK’s leading South Asian bhangra crew
Afro-champeta party from Colombia’s Caribbean coast
“We want to introduce new artists into the market, and reintroduce artists who have had success in some parts of the world, but haven’t toured widely across the US,” explains Isabel Soffer, one of globalFEST’s co-founders and co-directors. “I think we have done that really well this year with some artists who are legendary in certain circles, but unknown in others. This year, we have exciting and fun surprises that we feel will do extremely well on the touring market in North America and even abroad.”
Surprises like Astrid Hadad, a cult figure in performance and cabaret, whose off- the- wall musical appeal and wow-effect show presents a surreal view of Mexican folk and pop culture. Or Fendika, one of the foremost ensembles from Ethiopia, who have reinvigorated the traditional music and dance scene in Addis Ababa, and collaborated with such far-ranging artists as previous globalFEST performers Debo Band, and Dutch post-punk icons The Ex.
Younger artists are reshaping the lineages and well-loved ideas of their native regions, finding radical connections and unexpected resonances. With roots in East Africa, Somi looks to Nigeria to draw on the cosmopolitan attitude of Lagos, with modern jazz and soul grooves. Debauche picks up the raucous Gogol Bordello torch and finds the secret tie binding New Orleans and Odessa. Tribu Baharú re-ups the propulsive Afro-Colombian beats of champeta (sometimes referred to as “Colombiansoukous”) with day-glo glee.
The stories globalFEST artists tell, however, go beyond the musicological or entertaining. From the quiet but bloody war facing Ukraine—a subject that fires Mariana Sadovska’s recent work–to the ongoing struggles of artistic communities in Haiti (Lakou Mizik), globalFEST aims to highlight musicians who can speak profoundly to the trials and joys of a place’s musical culture.
“We’ve always been aware that artists are important ambassadors for their local situation and help contribute to the economic well being of the places they are from,” reflects Bill Bragin, another co-founder and co-producer of the festival. “For example, through the years we’ve focused on artists from the Gulf of Mexico and on Haitian artists to give those artists a chance to speak for themselves, to put other narratives out into new markets.”
To bring less familiar sounds into new markets has always been globalFEST’s goal. The 501(c)3 not-for-profit service organization provides artists support, including funds for touring, curates a national 38-market package tour (produced by CAMI Music), and works with music festivals like Bonnaroo and SXSW to expand the scope of their programming.. As the world changes, and as music from all its corners reaches more and more listeners, the organization has strived to keep opening minds and ears to what “world music” can be.
“We keep reevaluating how to define world music, as it’s a very contentious term,” muses Shanta Thake, globalFEST’s third co-producer and co-director. “We do that by presenting everything from a live Punjabi bhangra crew to a Mediterranean string ensemble. We’re saying, this music can be DJ driven, it can be punk. It’s also jazz and regional music and performance art. It can be all of this.”
Over the last decade, globalFEST (gF) has become one of the most dynamic global music platforms in North America, growing from an acclaimed festival/showcase into a catalytic non-profit service organization for curators, artists, and the performing arts field. Through its work, gF encourages networking and cultural diplomacy; deepens cultural understanding among its constituents; builds audiences for international music and creates new opportunities for artists leading to a more robust and sustainable ecosystem for world music in the United States. Artists that participate in gF programs represent diverse musical styles from all corners of the globe, ranging from traditional to contemporary, and everything in between. Programs include: the gF Touring Fund, which provides direct support to artists to develop new markets; gF On the Road, a tour that brings creatively programmed lineups to venues nationwide; and guest curating in both commercial and performing arts settings, including such influential events as SXSW, Bonnaroo, Lincoln Center and beyond, that serves to raise the profile and visibility of the artists gF works with, and world music overall.