by Cameron Boyle and Christine Scott
globalFEST is indeed the mecca for world music junkees. At any given moment between 7pm and midnight you can see three different performers from three different cultures on three different floors. It's a DIFFERENT experience. We've attended this multi-cultural musical extravaganza at Webster Hall in New York City for many years, and each time it sets the tone for the range of music we'll listen to during the following year. As you see in our video, Lakou Mizik was a powerhouse of invigorating Haitian roots and grooves. A younger generation singer danced around onstage with a Haitian flag-bandana on his head, and an elder Haitian did the same (no less energetically) as he danced atop his floor-length dreadlocks. The band had every type of traditional and modern instrument at its disposal to convey its spiritual and dance rhythms.
Then there was Astrid Hadad, an extravagant Mexican cabaret with soulful songs and outrageous visuals. Astrid is truly a modern day Mexican Carmen Miranda. But she takes Carmen's costumes to another level, as she has double sided enormous headdresses, and hidden menageries under her skirts that appear during a turn of tune as she whisks off the top sheath of an apparent petticoat. The outer layer is "Day of the Dead"; the inner layer is Carmen's carnaval of fruit cornucopia. Astrid's voice and band are intoxicating, and her brand of performance art could be relegated to the finest of modern art museums. Don't miss seeing this act live!
Tribu Baharu was our favorite. If you aren't very familiar with Afro-Colombian music from the pacific coast, you would never believe this is not a soukous band from Africa. The pair of lead singers were the most theatrical and energetic we'd seen in a long time. They sing in Spanish, dance in African and "ham it up" in universal "FUN". You can't help to dance to this group that combines the best of African and Latin music; and you won't be able to wipe the smile off your face, nor the euphoria from your spirit.
And the Bhangra by The Dhol Foundation! We loved it!.... five traditional dancing bhangra drummers backed up by Celtic guitarits! What?! We danced and chanted in accordance with the lead drummer's instructions and felt like stars in a Bollywood film.
Fendika was the offering from Ethiopia, with masterful dancer Melaku Belay leading Ethiopia's traditional music revival. You wouldn't believe the wild wigs and hair-whipping as some of these songs reached their crescendos. As with the whirling dervishes, one would worry about the dancer's safety when their trance provokes such extreme flexions and girations of body parts, but instead the result is that they take you right along with them in their rhythmic possession.
Our take-away from this year's globalFEST was the quality of music mixed with a high level of performance art, whether it was taking Mexican, Indian or African music to new heights of cultural expression and audience participation. It appears the simplicity of Andean pan flutes and African koras is no longer enough to stimulate the sophisticated palettes of 21st century globalFEST goers. Can't wait till globalFEST 2017!