GlobalFEST 2022: 5 artists to follow
Even in New York City – an artistic epicenter with seemingly all the sunny populations spread across five boroughs – world music is under-represented in the arts. Enter GlobalFEST, an annual, non-profit January festival dedicated to showcasing the hard-hitting performances (and touring potential) of international artists of all genres.
Held in conjunction with the Association of Performing Arts Professionals conference, GlobalFEST is an opportunity for artists to perform in front of industry professionals – festival programmers, club promoters and media – who can see firsthand how a Ukrainian folk quartet Where psychedelic punk band from Soweto resonates with the American public. Many GlobalFEST artists perform a version of traditional music, which its organizers say requires more effort for the audience and presenters.
“A lot of times the type of music we present is almost an afterthought with a lot of presenters,” says Isabel Soffer, co-founder and co-director of GlobalFEST. “They present in big performing arts centers, Broadway plays and things that they know are going to sell really well. The most interesting things – which are often what we bring – take a lot more work to sell tickets and for these shows to reach new communities. “
Despite these challenges (along with the myriad of issues related to finding funding, obtaining visas, and managing COVID protocols), GlobalFEST has hosted over 2,000 artists from over 80 countries. The festival has been the American launching pad for a variety of international artists while being a first stop for groups such as Flor de Toloache, a tribe called red, Antibalas and Saint Cecilia. The festival is also an important opportunity for the public, notes co-director Shanta Thake. “Performing arts is one of the opportunities we have to be with people who are not like us,” she adds.
GlobalFEST went live in 2021 in response to the pandemic, building on a partnership with NPR’s Tiny Desk. The resulting online festival, Tiny Desk meets GlobalFEST – a series of home performances that gave extra depth to the cross-cultural connection – was a surprising success, drawing all 16 artists from that year to over 1.8 million views.
Although the GF2022 was originally intended as a throwback to live performances, concerns over the omicron variant have forced the festival to stay online only, with nine artists scheduled for another Tiny Desk Meets GlobalFEST.
GlobalFEST will air on NPR Music’s Youtube channel From January 18 to 20, hosted by four times winner of a GRAMMY Angelique Kidjo. Before you log in, get to know five of the festival’s hottest global artists.
Ak Dan Gwang Chil (ADG7)
Ak Dan Gwang Chil (ADG7) from South Korea is a startling mix of shamanic ritual music, folk songs from Hwanghae province and K-pop.
Led by three singers usually dressed in contrasting colorful geometric outfits, the group also features traditional Korean instruments such as the gayageum – a 12-25 plucked string instrument – and saenghwang, a free reed organ. Energetic and theatrical, ADG7 manages to be both supernatural and deliciously pop.
Son Rompe Pera
The Son Rompe Pera quartet mixes marimba, cumbia and punk in an electric reinterpretation of folk music.
Directed by the three Gama brothers, Son Rompe was born out of a family tradition of the marimba; the eldest, Mongo, started playing the marimba with his father when he was 11 years old. While Mongo and the brothers Kacho and Kilos performed at weddings, birthdays and markets with their father José, they explored other musical scenes while hiding their activity in the family group, also known as Son Rompe Pera.
His today’s Rompe renewed his appreciation for the rich history of the marimba while actively embracing psychobilly, rock and cumbia. The result is punk like hell, with a lot of respect for tradition.
Originally from San Basilio de Palenque, the first free black city in the Americas, Colombian Kombilesa Mí mixes the region’s traditional music with rap. The group of nine musicians is at the center of an emerging genre called RFP, or rap folklorico palenquero.
Sung in several languages, including Palenque Creole, Kombilesa Mí’s lyrics are stimulating and catchy, often performed at a breakneck pace and suited to dance. Musicians Afroneto, KRMP, Mc Pm and Mc Ukibe use traditional instruments including bass drums, their own handmade metal drums and the plucked-drum marímbula to stretch and modernize the mapalé, bullerengue and son palenquero rhythms.
Al Bilali Sudan
A family of griots and popular musicians, the members of Al Bilali Sudan in Mali perform Tuareg music which is a continuous exchange between tehardent (lute), song and hand percussion, creating a somewhat psychedelic feeling.
The traditional genre performed by Al Bilali Sudan has been around since at least the 16th century and is performed to celebrate the end of harvests, changes of seasons, heroic warriors and noble families. Yet Al Bilali Sudan makes that ancient sound modern, masterfully creating a hypnotic and ethereal vibe that will take you to a faraway land, even on YouTube.
Singer Kiran Ahluwalia may be originally from Patna, India, but her sound extends far beyond her homeland: she creates original compositions based on traditional Indian and Pakistani music while incorporating elements of jazz. , R&B and Western and Malian blues.
Across seven albums, Ahluwalia’s songs span the gamut from personal growth stories, to love songs and powerful feminist ballads. Backed by a group of five musicians (which includes an accordion, organ, and table), Kiran Ahluwalia has a boundless appeal that is both poetic and rock.
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