Tag Archives: world music

Artist Profiles: Bill Frisell

Bill Frisell – Photo by Michael Wilson

In a career that spans more than 20 years and numerous recordings, guitarist, composer and bandleader. Frisell’s Nonesuch discography includes 16 albums, ranging from original Buster Keaton film scores to covers of music by Charles Ives, Stephen Foster, Bob Dylan and Madonna (Have a Little Faith); collaborations with Jim Keltner and Viktor Krauss (Gone, Just Like a Train and Good Dog, Happy Man); a disc of eleven jazz standards performed in duo with pianist Fred Hersch (Songs We Know); and a first-ever solo guitar album, Ghost Town.

In addition to his work as soloist and bandleader, Frisell has established himself as one of the most sought-after collaborators in contemporary music. He has contributed to the work of such diverse artists as Elvis Costello, Burt Bacharach, Ron Carter, Ginger Baker, Gavin Bryars, Jerry Douglas, Marianne Faithfull, Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz, Paul Motian, David Sylvian, William S. Burroughs, Hal Willner and John Zorn, among others.

Bill Frisell was born in Baltimore and grew up in Denver, playing clarinet in his high school band and discovering his love for the guitar through his exposure to pop music on the radio. His great enthusiasm for the Chicago blues ‘particularly the music of B.B. King and Paul Butterfield ‘ led to his complex affinity for contemporary American music. Frisell studied at the University of Northern Colorado and at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. In 1978 he spent a year composing in Belgium and then moved to New York City, where he played a critical role in the foundation and widespread acceptance of the downtown new music scene. In 1989, Frisell moved to Seattle, where he continues to make his home.

Bill Frisell made a national television appearance in 1997 on Sessions at West 54th. That same year, his 1996 recording Quartet won the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis, the German equivalent of a Grammy away. In 1998, Frisell’s recording Nashville won the Downbeat Critics Poll for “Album of the Year,” and in 1998 and 1999 he received both a Critics Award and an Industry Award in the category of “Best Guitarist” in the Annual Jazz Awards, sponsored by the Knitting Factory and the Jazz Journalists Association.

From 1999 through the Summer of 21 Frisell toured extensively with the New Quartet. He was also involved in a 1999 collaboration with Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, The Sweetest Punch, which was released by Universal Classics. He has been busy in recent years composing and recording music for such films as “Finding Forrester”, “Million Dollar Hotel”, “American Hollow” and “Psycho” as well as numerous stage, television and radio productions. In addition, he’s been on the road periodically with his trio featuring bassist Tony Scherr and drummer Kenny Wollesen.

In October of 21, Nonesuch released Frisell’s self-titled trio record with jazz legends Dave Holland and Elvin Jones, a reworking of a number of Frisell’s most enduring compositions along with a couple of standards. It followed the January 21 release of Blues Dream, the debut recording of Frisell’s Septet. In many ways it represented a culmination of the strands running through several of his preceding Nonesuch releases, combining the homespun lyricism of Frisell’s previous records with the expanded tonal palette and harmonic sophistication afforded by a larger group, something he has explored as far back as his first Nonesuch recording, Before We Were Born.

Frisell collaborated with visual artist Jim Woodring (album cover illustrations from Gone, Just Like a Train, and Bill Frisell with Dave Holland and Elvin Jones) on a performance piece entitled “Mysterio Simpatico.” The event, featuring Woodring’s artwork, and Frisell’s trio music with violinist Scheinman and trumpeter Ron Miles, premiered at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn in June 22.

The Willies, Frisell’s sixteenth Nonesuch recording, was released in June, 22. Featuring Frisell on electric and acoustic guitars and loops, Danny Barnes (Bad Livers) on banjo and guitar and Keith Lowe (Fiona Apple, David Sylvian, and Wayne Horvitz’s Zony Mash) on bass, the album sets out to explore Frisell’s inimitable and modern conceptions of bluegrass and country blues. The collection features eight traditional offerings including “Cluck Old Hen” and “Cold, Cold Heart” as well as eight original compositions.

Frisell’s encounters with Malian musicians like singer and guitarist Boubacar Traore and percussionist Sidiki Camara, who has played with many of Mali’s most renowned performers, have left him eager to further explore the commonalities of African and American roots musics.

The Intercontinentals is a band Bill Frisell formed in 2001 which made its performance debut at Seattle’s Earshot Jazz Festival that fall. The self-titled album The Intercontinentals features the Brazilian composer, singer, guitarist and percussionist Vinicius Cantuaria; Greek-Macedonian musician Christos Govetas on ud, bouzouki and vocals; and Mali’s Sidiki Camera on percussion and vocals, as well as subsequently added musicians Greg Leisz on pedal steel and various slide guitars and violinist Jenny Scheinman. It is an album that combines Frisell’s own brand of American roots music and his inimitable improvisational style with the influences of Brazilian, Greek and Malian sounds. Frisell, in talking about this collaboration, has said, “With this group I’ve been finding all kinds of new musical connections. It’s been a challenge and an inspiration.”

In addition to Frisell’s ongoing performance and collaborative recording activities, he was honored at London’s Barbican Theatre with “An Evening with Bill Frisell”, where he performed with The Intercontinentals, plus special guests Djelimady Tounkara, the celebrated guitarist from Mali, and Eliza Carthy, the young singer and violinist from the UK.

Frisell was also commissioned to write and record a musical response to the paintings of Gerhard Richter, to accompany a book and exhibit celebrating Richter’s acclaimed 858 series. The resulting CD-length piece includes performances by Frisell with Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola) and Hank Roberts (cello). Frisell also accepted an invitation from Gerard Mortier to be Artistic Director of the “Century of Song” series as part of the Ruhr Trienniale Arts Festival in Germany for the 23/24 season.

Unspeakable (Nonesuch, 2004) featured Frisell’s long-time rhythm section of Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen, percussionist Don Alias, horn arrangements by Steven Bernstein, and Frisell’s string arrangement for the 858 strings of Jenny Scheinman, Eyvind Kang and Hank Roberts. It won a Grammy award in 2005 for Best Contemporary Jazz recording.

The double live album East/West included Frisell’s two working trios. “West” featured Bill’s trio with Viktor Krauss and Kenny Wollesen and was recorded at Yoshi’s in Oakland. “East” features Frisell’s other working trio with Tony Scherr and Kenny Wollesen. It was recorded at the Village Vanguard in New York City.

The album, Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian (Nonesuch), is a collaboration with two musicians whom Bill considers to be true mentors and inspirations, and represented a personal milestone for him. “To hear Paul and Ron play together was a dream come true for me. I knew they had worked together a little bit in the 6’s and was sure they would reconnect in a big way. During the sessions I was so mesmerized listening to them, most of the time I wasn’t even aware that I was playing too! I wanted the album to be live, all of us playing in a room. It was recorded quickly, with no rehearsal,”said Frisell “In high school I heard Wes Montgomery’s Bumpin’on Sunset. This was the first solo I learned to play on the guitar. The floodgates were opened and soon I was listening to Miles, Eric Dolphy, Jim Hall, Kenny Burrell, Sonny Rollins, Herbie, Wayne, Tony, Sam Rivers, Freddie Hubbard, McCoy, etc. This music changed my life. Ron Carter is the thread that runs through all of it, since he played with all those guys. It’s awesome to think about.” He continued, “I first had the chance to meet and play with Ron on Joey Baron’s albums, Down Home and We’ll Soon Find Out. He then invited me to play on his album Orfeu. We’ve done some gigs with Joey’s band and also some duo gigs at the Blue Note Club in New York. He’s been so supportive of my music and me. I wrote a tune for him, “Ron Carter” on my Blues Dream album. The bass line has only two notes.

Paul Motian is my musical father. There’s no way to put into just a few words the impact he has had on me. He helped me find my musical voice. In 1968, I heard him play live for the first time with Charles Lloyd’s band. So, just as I was discovering Ron’s music I also found Paul’s with Bill Evans, Paul Bley, Lennie Tristano, etc. In 1981, Paul was looking for a guitar player and Pat Metheny recommended me. Paul called and invited me to come to his apartment and play with bassist Marc Johnson. Bill Evans had recently passed away and they were reminiscing about their time spent with him. The first song we played together that day was My Man’s Gone Now.’ We’ve been playing together ever since.”

History, Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008) featured an octet of strings, horns and rhythm section with some of his closest music collaborator: Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang, (viola), Hank Roberts (cello), Ron Miles (cornet), Greg Tardy (clarinet and tenor saxophone), Tony Scherr (bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums). History, Mystery featured new Frisell compositions as well as some of his arrangements of favorite pieces by other songwriters, ranging from soul pioneer Sam Cooke to jazzmen Thelonious Monk and Lee Konitz. The original compositions on the album were born from and inspired by collaborations with visual artist and fellow Seattle resident Jim Woodring.

Album producer Townsend said, “History, Mystery explores a fuller palette of orchestral colors and timbres than for any project Bill has done before. Thematic elements recur throughout the album, furthering its symphonic sensibility.”

The Best of Bill Frisell, Vol 1: Folk Songs was the first in a series of compilations, this one drawn from Frisell’s catalog spotlighting his idiosyncratic excursions into country and traditional folk. The album features an impressive lineup: Bill Frisell, electric and acoustic guitars, loops, music boxes; Viktor Krauss, bass; Jim Keltner, drums, percussion;Danny Barnes, banjo, acoustic guitar, bass harmonica, pump organ; Keith Lowe, bass; Jerry Douglas, dobro; Greg Leisz, pedal steel, lap steel, National steel guitar, mandolin, Weissenborn; Dobro, Scheerhorn resonator guitar; Wayne Horvitz, organ, piano, samples; Ry Cooder, electric and Ripley guitar; Kermit Driscoll, bass; Joey Baron, drums; David Piltch, bass; Kenny Wollesen, drums, percussion.

The album Disfarmer was inspired by iconic photographer Mike Disfarmer. The multimedia project Disfarmer Project featured Frisell, lap steel guitar player Greg Leisz and violinist Jenny Scheinman, plus slides of Disfarmer’s photos, displayed on screens. The piece premiered on March 3,27, at the Wexner Center, on the campus of Ohio State University. The score was subsequently recorded in Seattle and Nashville, produced by Frisell’s longtime collaborator Lee Townsend and also featured Viktor Krauss on bass. Along with Frisell’s original compositions, he included versions of Arthur Crudup’s “That’s Alright Mama”and Hank Williams Sr.’s “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still in Love with You)”.

In his liner notes, Frisell, who took a driving trip to Heber Springs to learn more about the area where Disfarmer worked, said, “Of course I was blown away when I saw his photos for the first time and started to learn a little about his life. What a fantastic story … I kept thinking about the many other unsung and misunderstood artists who never had the recognition they deserved during their own time: Vermeer, Van Gogh, Charles Ives, Henry Darger, etc. … I try to picture what went on in Disfarmer’s mind. How did he really feel about the people in this town? What was he thinking? What did he see? We’ll never know, but as I write the music, I’d like to imagine it coming from his point of view. The sound of him looking through the lens.”

After 22 years of a productive relationship with Nonesuch Records dating from the late 1980s, Frisell signed an agreement with the Savoy Label Group. His first album for the label,Beautiful Dreamers featured a trio with Eyvind Kang on viola and Rudy Royston on drums. The repertory included Frisell originals as well as interpretations of classic songs “It’s Nobody’s Fault But Mine”, “Tea for Two”, “Goin’Out of My Head”, “Keep on the Sunnyside”and a stirring rendition of Benny Goodman’s “Benny’s Bugle”.

Frisell’s second album for Savoy Jazz,Sign of Life, with his 858 Quartet featured Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola) and Hank Roberts (cello). This time, Frisell explored chamber-group dynamics and interplay on a set of all-Frisell original material.

In 2011, Frisell pull together an ensemble consisting of Greg Leisz (guitars), Jenny Scheinman (violin), Tony Scherr (bass) and Kenny Wollesen (drums) to record his versions of the classic songs of John Lennon. A fan of the Beatles since the age of 13, Frisell was asked to put together a performance in honor of Lennon as part of a special event in Paris. The arrangements and interpretations were recorded and appear on the album titled All We Are Saying… (Savoy Jazz).

Bill Frisell and Skúli Sverrisson – Photo by Jordan Kleinman

In 2018, Frisell recorded Strata, the first ever collaboration with Icelandic bassist Skúli Sverrisson. “I almost feel like I didn’t even play on this record. Compositionally, what Skúli brought is so amazing. There wasn’t anything for me to do, everything was there already. So natural for me to fall into–so effortless. What Skúli chose to play and what he wrote–he built this structure that didn’t have anything blocking me but it was holding me up the whole time. It feels like we’ve known each other longer that we have. And it feels like the start of something,” said Frisell.

Also in 2018, Frisell appeared in Lebroba, an album from drummer Andrew Cyrille.

In 2019, Frisell released Epistrophy, a collaboration with bassist Thomas Morgan, recorded at New York City’s Village Vanguard.

Discography:

In Line (ECM, 1983)
Rambler (ECM, 1984)
Lookout for Hope (ECM, 1987)
Before We Were Born (Nonesuch, 1989)
Is That You? (Nonesuch, 199)
Where in the World? (Nonesuch, 1991)
Have a Little Faith (Nonesuch, 1992)
This Land (Nonesuch, 1994)
Go West: Music for the Films of Buster Keaton (Nonesuch, 1995)
The High Sign/One Week: Music for the Films of Buster Keaton (Nonesuch, 1995)
Live (Gramavision, 1995)
Quartet (Nonesuch, 1996)
Nashville (Nonesuch, 1997)
Gone, Just Like a Train (Nonesuch, 1998)
Good Dog, Happy Man (Nonesuch, 1999)
The Sweetest Punch, The New Songs of Elvis Costello & Burt Bacharach (Decca, 1999)
Ghost Town (Nonesuch, 2000)
Blues Dream (Nonesuch, 2001)
With Dave Holland and Elvin Jones (Nonesuch, 2001)
The Willies (Nonesuch, 2002)
The Intercontinentals (Nonesuch, 2003)
Unspeakable (Nonesuch, 2004)
Richter 858 (Songlines, 2005)
East/West (Nonesuch, 2005)
Further East/Further West (Nonesuch, 25)
Bill Frisell, Ron Carter, Paul Motian (Nonesuch, 26)
Floratone (Blue Note, 2007)
History, Mystery (Nonesuch, 2008)
Disfarmer (Nonesuch, 2009)
Beautiful Dreamers (Savoy Label Group, 2010)
Lagrimas Mexicanas with Vinicius Cantuaria (E1 Music/Naive, 2011)
Sign of Life: Music for 858 Quartet (Savoy Label Group, 2011)
All We Are Saying.. Frisell Plays Lennon (Savoy Label Group, 2011)
Floratone II (Savoy Jazz, 2012)
Big Sur (Okeh, 2013)
Guitar in the Space Age! (Okeh, 2014)
When You Wish Upon a Star (Okeh, 2016)
Small Town (Okeh, 2016)
Music IS (Okeh, 2018), Strata, with Skúli Sverrisson (Nouvelle, 2018)
Lebroba, with Andrew Cyrille (ECM, 2018)
Epistrophy, with Thomas Morgan (ECM, 2019)

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Voice of the Steppes: Interview with Urna Chahar-Tugchi

Urna Chahar-Tugchi, an artist from Inner Mongolia, recently released an album titled Ser, a collaboration with Polish group Kroke. Urna discusses her musical background and her latest projects with World Music Central.

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

I grew up in the steppe and the infinite diversity was always a great enrichment for me as a child. The indescribable diversity of nature…The unimaginable spaces between heaven and earth…The invisible energies of the universe…

As a child, I have always been curious about the visible and the invisible. When I sing, I’m in my music (melodies) and live the connections effortlessly and gladly share that with everyone. These moments of being are indescribable and quite simply many of my compositions and lyrics are born even in such moments.

Who can you name as your most important musical influences?

My greatest musical influences are the endless nature! All the beautiful things in the world, my home, the roots of my birth earth, my wonderful grandmother, my parents and of course the always enriching life experiences …

Tell us about your first recordings and your musical development.

My very first recording was in 1991 during my studies in Shanghai Music Conservatory. We had National Folksong lessons and our teacher Ms. Bai once asked me after a lesson, if I would sing some traditional songs from my home Ordos for her, and she would record.

So we started once and she has recorded really many of my songs that I sang, I think … like hundreds? Anyway, a whole book with hundreds of pages every song I sung, all recorded with a pretty old tape recorder. It took many, many, many days.

At the beginning of the 90s, for many students and even many of my friends at the conservatory I was somehow the strange girl of the Inner Mongolian steppe. Because during my studies I was very interested and visited all possible concerts of traditional music, classical music and many other concerts. I also listened to all the different exams, from voice to violin, cello and piano…
It was a nice opportunity to experience many different music and cultures. It was my great bridge from the steppe to the world with my music.

Urna Chahar-Tugchi

What attracted you to work with the Polish group Kroke?

There are levels when making music you can communicate with the souls. This is simply wonderful.

Kroke are great musicians and I’m lucky enough to work with such wonderful musicians, as Kroke, the Chemirani’s and others. I’m very grateful for my wonderful musician friends. Thank you!

Urna and Kroke – Ser

The result of your collaboration with Kroke is Ser. How was the composing and recording process?

My basic philosophy for cooperation with people for music: free and peacefully, so will the music swing boundlessly in life. It was beautiful, we have always a lot of fun and joy working together, so we had a lot of joy in the studio. The result can be heard on my Ser CD and I wish really you all can feel it.

You currently live in Europe. Do you keep in touch with Mongolian culture?

Of course I visit my home country and spend time with my parents and family.

Do you have any initiatives to transmit Mongolian music traditions to new generations?

Unlimited music flow is timeless and touches the hearts of people. Today we have incredible possibilities to open our mind. If we look closely, the young generations are expanding great open and fast. That’s wonderful!

Free and Peacefully, we humans need the profound vibrations and frequencies of music.

I enjoy always to touch the hearts of people with my music.

If you could bring together musicians or music groups, who would you work with?

Very interesting question; it sounds like you have perhaps certain ideas? Of course I wish to do many great and different projects. It is fantastic to working with great musicians and music groups from small to big all over the world. That brings me a lot of fun and joy and is always fascinating.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes, at the moment I have some different projects in Asia that one or the other needs something to plan and we are thereby. Therefore, I can not tell you yet publicly 😉

And about my next concert dates, when you’re interested in booking concerts, and also with new great projects to realize with me together, I’m glad if you contact my manager Oliver, call +49 172 543 2207.

More about Urna and her discography.

Headline photo: Urna Chahar-Tugchi by Kerstin Stelter

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Global Mashups at Flushing Town Hall in New York City

Falu and Hazmat Modine

Five concerts this spring 2019 will pair music and dance by groups from excitedly different backgrounds for a night of cross-cultural fun. The concerts will take place March 9, March 23, April 6, April 20 and May 4.

The New York City borough of Queens is described as the world in microcosm, with around 138 languages spoken in the borough. Yet “everyone tends to stay in their own community,” notes Ellen Kodadek, Flushing Town Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director.

To break down some of these walls, to see what happens when neighbors meet, mingle, and dance together, the Queens art hub came up with a novel approach: Global Mashups, when two bands from radically different places and styles share a bill, then jam together, often for the first time, during a third set. This is the fifth edition of these mashups.

“Our mission is to bring people together, so this idea to pair unexpected artists across community lines really evolved organically,” says Kodadek. “We wanted to bring people together from diverse backgrounds in a fun way through music and dance. We do a lot of cross-cultural programing in our gallery and the theater, and this felt like the perfect approach for our music programs.”

Each performance is preceded by quick but fun dance lessons, to give concert goers all the basic moves they need to get out of their seat and make the most of the music. “It’s been a wildly successful set of programs,” Kodadek reflects.

Spanglish Fly

This year’s lineup includes:

March 9: Bollywood Meets Global Roots Blues (the polychrome glamor of singer Falu + maverick bluesmen Hazmat Modine).

March 23: Western Swing Meets Balkan Brass (the old-school American roots of The Brain Cloud + pan-Slavic fireworks of Romashka).

April 6: Latin Boogaloo Meets Klezmer (the vintage-inspired Latin grooves of Spanglish Fly + wild inventiveness of Frank London).

April 20: Bluegrass Meets Cuba (Buddy Merriam and Backroads + Cuban dynamos Conjunto Guantánamo).

May 4: Balkan Punk Meets West Africa (Toronto’s Balkanic rebels Lemon Bucket Orkestra + high-energy Kakande)

“One of the coolest aspects of these evenings is when we get married couples who come because one spouse is from one culture, and the other from another,” Kodadek recounts. “People bring their kids, and the show demonstrates that cultural combinations are totally normal and fun. It’s really wonderful to see.”

All shows start at 7 PM (dance lessons), 8 PM (concert and jam) at Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing NY 11354. Ticket and other information can be found at www.flushingtownhall.org or by calling (718) 463-7700 x 222.

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Masterful Contemporary Italian Roots Music from Riccardo Tesi and Banditaliana

Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana – Argento

Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana – Argento (Visage Music, 2018)

Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana is one of the leading world music ensembles in Italy. Tesi and his colleagues combine Italian traditional music with Mediterranean influences, progressive jazz elements and even blues.

On Argento, the award-winning band celebrates its 25th anniversary with new material as well recreations of previously released musical pieces, including a moving tribute to the memorable Italian singer-songwriter Gianmaria Testa, who passed away in 2016. In addition to Tesi, percussionist Gigi Biolcati has emerged as one of the prominent composers in Banditaliana.

Although the core ensemble consists of four musicians on accordion, guitar, saxophone and percussion/vocals, three bassists, various percussionists and additional guests appear on Argento.

High profile guests include acclaimed jazz trumpeter Paolo Fresu; progressive rock multi-instrumentalist Mauro Pagani (Premiata Forneria Marconi) on bouzouki; pianist Francesco Magnelli; Spanish Basque accordionist Kepa Junkera (who plays the percussive chalaparta in this case); and the fabulous female voices of “Bella Ciao”: Elena Ledda, Lucilla Galeazzi, Ginevra Di Marco and Luisa Cottifogli. The three bass players are Silvano Lobina, Nicola Vernuccio and Mirco Capecchi. The album also features Andrea Piccioni on Middle Eastern and North African percussion and vibraphonist Ettore Bonafé.

Riccardo Tesi & Banditaliana includes Riccardo Tesi on accordion; Maurizio Geri on guitar, saz, chitarra battente (southern Italian folk guitar) and lead vocals; Claudio Carboni on soprano, bartitone and alto saxophones; and Gigi Biolcati oo percussion, lead vocals and a new device called GGtarra

Argento is a captivating and masterfully-crafted album by some of the most talented instrumentalists in the Italian folk and world music scene.

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Kronos Quartet to Release an Album with Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat

American chamber music ensemble Kronos Quartet has recorded an album titled Placeless (Kirkelig Kulturverksted) with Iranian artists Mahsa & Marjan Vahdat.

This recording is a milestone for us,” says Mahsa Vahdat. “The wonderful musicians in Kronos Quartet have given our music new dimensions. By performing poems from Persia’s classical era, we have been coming closer to finding an organic connection between what we express in our art and the way we live.”

Kronos’ artistic director, founder and violinist David Harrington adds “We’re always trying to learn as much as we can, and now, recording with Mahsa and Marjan, we sometimes are able to make sounds we have never before heard from our instruments.”

The release date is March 1, 2019.

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APAP 2019 Rewind: Tell It, Sing It, Play It Like It Is – Towards Social Justice

With Observations by Catalina Maria Johnson, Neva Wartell, Brice Rosenbloom

Meshell Ndegeocello Ensemble – Photo Evangeline Kim

In these convulsive times, we affirm that the performing arts are a force, and that as a field, we can and will navigate and drive change together. – Mario Garcia Durham, APAP President & CEO

Despite the current, troubled, and uncertain times in the United States, the Association of Performing Arts Professionals (APAP) served to rally and infuse thousands of its members and attendees with measures of inspiring and positive energies during its 62nd annual conference at the Hilton in New York City (January 4-8). 

The world music and jazz conferences and showcase offerings in particular continue to be bellwethers of change and developing trends for all the performing arts in the country.  Their combined focus was social justice.

Part I: Observations, Reflections

Wavelengths Preconference

Almost 20 years ago, when I first started to attend APAP’s world music themed preconferences just before September 11th, 2001, the gathering or room of attendees held little racial or ethnic diversity.  Slowly but surely this has changed and continues to change.  Increasing numbers of “people of color” and from various ethnic origins, notably from younger generations – including agents, presenters, producers, artists, and newer world music industry thinkers and leaders – are starting to populate the by now branded Wavelengths preconference as participants or audience members.

Here’s a one-stop newsletter about Wavelengths that summarizes the whole event, including links to all the panel discussions. “What Happens at Wavelengths: Takeaways from 2019’s World Music Pre-Conference”.

In keeping with this year’s Wavelengths theme, “Acknowledgement of Land”, the Canadian-based First Nation Anishinaabe singer and activist, ShoShona Kish delivered a compelling keynote address about the Indigenous peoples of North America.  The impact of her talk resonated throughout all the APAP showcase events I attended.  Her words underscored more than the torturous, disenfranchised past and present of the Indigenous peoples of North America.  They also held hope and beauty through her call for global social activism in the coming years for future generations.  Listen to her speech here, starting at 18 minutes into the video recording.

Going Deeper…

The most challenging and painful issues of Indigenous peoples have recently dominated the media due to a horrible incident of incendiary racial confrontations in America. Anti-immigration rhetoric is getting louder.  At the same time, the first Latin American Indigenous actress has been nominated for this year’s best actress Oscar in Hollywood. This is the UN International Year of Indigenous Languages.  The United States has just left UNESCO, the world’s great and indispensable organization, promoting peace and hope through culture.   What could all this mean? Leadership in the arts is key.

Two media colleagues offer their interrelated thoughts:

Catalina Maria Johnson Moderates Wavelengths Impact and Integrity Panel – Photo Evangeline Kim

Catalina Maria Johnson: Land Acknowledgement

In this century, as we gather in countries such as Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and the U.S. it is becoming more customary to open events and gatherings by acknowledging the traditional inhabitants of the land.

It is the impact of this small verbal gesture that we discussed as part of our Wavelengths “Impact and Integrity” panel, which was focused on developing best practices for our world music community. On the one hand, to say a few words that over time can become stale and perfunctory may be perceived as an insignificant effort in the light of the enormous harm done to traditional societies across hundreds of years of colonial/settler imperialism; we barely understand the depth of those wounds and are very far from comprehending what needs to be done to heal them and move forward appropriately.

Yet, to come together as communities to create and experience art is one way in which we celebrate and share our common values. In the current political climate, words of hate have vomited forth in public gatherings, rallying and emboldening dark forces. As the philosopher/linguist Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language, are the limits of my world.” Today, more than ever, words matter. We can wield words as instruments capable of creating and shaping different ways of moving through our lives; we can advocate traditions that honor truth.

Additionally, as we reflected upon in our panel, a simple land acknowledgement is a seed of possibilities that can blossom into concrete actions. The words can serve to raise our awareness of a respectful relationship to the land, honor those that came before us, and become a an organic part of fostering a vision of protecting the earth that ties into concrete actions that can be undertaken as a world music community—-such as efforts like the Earth Muse Collective to eliminate single-use plastic water bottles at our concerts and festivals.

Yet, let us not be fooled into thinking that the acknowledgment in and of itself will be enough and lead us to reconciliation and some kind of utopia. It is important to understand the long-standing history that has brought each of us to reside on the land, and to understand what our role is within that history. Land acknowledgment should be approached as one way to consider our own place in the story of colonization and of undoing its legacy—-because as has been pointed out, there is no point in repeating words to atone for a crime that we are still committing.

And so, let me conclude by acknowledging that I live on the ancestral lands of the Peoria, Potawatomi and the Miami. And you? Take a moment to research and acknowledge the original peoples of your place of residence, then make a commitment to act and honor the vision those words represent.

Catalina Maria Johnson is a tropical being living in Polar-Vortex-loving Chicago who stays warm by listening to hot, hot music and sharing these grooves through her radio show and podcast, Beat Latino, as well as writing for NPR MusicBillboard, Downbeat and others.

Neva E. Wartell – Photo Evangeline Kim

Neva E. Wartell: Whose World Is It, Anyway?

An ethnomusicologist and cultural activist since the 1970s, by now I’m a senior member of the global music community that gathers every January at the Wavelengths: APAP World Music Pre-Conference in NYC. The two days of panels, workshops and presentations never fail to provide inspiration and food for thought, along with the opportunity to reunite with colleagues, and to encounter new musical discoveries. Having attended every year since the first, some dozen years ago, I found the 2019 edition to be the most engaging and thought-provoking yet. I also found myself infused with a powerful sense of optimism for the future of the world.

Why? Because clearly the world is in new hands.

For me, one of this year’s most important markers was the generational shift in attendance and participation – and even more significantly, what such a shift represents: a changing social landscape, which by its nature creates a changing consciousness, which in turn demands…change.

This shift was reflected in both the topics of discussion at Wavelengths and the artists chosen to perform at globalFEST 2019. It’s no surprise that conversations and performances shared themes such as respect for the land, acknowledgment of cultural roots, assertion of identities, and demand for respect as human beings on this shared and suffering planet. Addressing these subjects is necessary and overdue – a very positive indication that a new generation is preparing to take the lead.

What kind of world have we left for them? The generation before mine created a music industry built on assumptions of white supremacy and male privilege. My generation took those power dynamics to the next level, inventing genres and marketing strategies, exploitative practices, and an insider/outsider mentality that gave birth to an amorphous, culturally myopic category called “Other”, which became the convenient home of “World Music”.

The new generation stepping forward represents all things labeled “Other” – the lovechild of “World Music” mated with “No Known Genre” equals every genre in the musical universe – both the cause and the effect of our changing social landscape.

They have every right, and so many reasons, to reject our constructs. Young musicians I meet these days are urgently aware of climate issues, economic issues, race, ethnicity, gender and other identity issues. They know the power of music as a vehicle for achieving social justice. And growing up in a digital environment and an increasingly do-it-yourself music industry, more and more artists are adept at handling their own business.

Many are from families who migrated from elsewhere, wanting only to assimilate into the dominant culture. But this generation is utilizing the dominant culture to express their “otherness” – celebrating the same cultural roots their parents left behind while making it relevant to their own context, creating a whole new cultural reality in their own image.

As award-winning musician and composer Rhiannon Giddens said in a recent interview with The Root: “I’m not interested in trying to do a hip-hop track to try to ‘reach across the aisle.’ I’m like, ‘This is our aisle.’”

The next generation is here, and they are unapologetically reclaiming the world. ‘Nuff’ respect.

“DJ Neva” E. Wartell is an ethnomusicologist, producer and cultural activist. Formerly with WBAI-FM and Radio Soleil in NYC, she currently works for WGXC community radio in NY’s Hudson Valley region, where she lives with two cats, a dog, a turtle, the turtle’s pet fish, and Pepe the Pig. She was the DJ for the very first globalFEST afterparty.

Globalfest 2019 Awards

This was the second year Globalfest presented awardsthat celebrate those that excel in the small but crucial global music field in the USA, too often with little recognition…. The annual awards will be presented to artists and members of the field who have been instrumental in making significant, longstanding contributions to the performing arts landscape in the USA through risk taking, addressing cultural diversity and diplomacy, cultural activism, helping to keep, transmit, and extend the world’s ancient traditions, commitment to working with local communities and making a difference to the greater American performing arts landscape as well as other areas.”

Leigh Ann Hahn GF Impact Award – Photo Evangeline Kim

A note about the honoree Leigh Ann Hahn, programming director of Grand Performances in Los Angeles.  Marco Werman, host and producer with PRI’s The World, presented her with the Impact Award.   She used her moment in the spotlight during the awards ceremony to draw attention to the ongoing, terrible genocide of the Uighurs in China.  She urged activism on their behalf. The entire situation concerning the Uighurs is an unfolding tragic story.

The New York Times recently reported, “According to the United States State Department, between 800,000 and two million people, or up to 15 percent of Xinjiang’s Muslim population, have been incarcerated in a growing network of more than 1,000 concentration camps.” 

There has been systematic targeting over the past few years by the Chinese government to detain influential Uighur musicians, writers and critics, and cultural activists in those concentration camps.  One of the greatest Uighur artists, Sanubar Tursun, Leigh Ann presented at Grand Performances in 2016, has been detained.  It will take massive efforts by governments, human rights organizations, and all interested in the world’s Indigenous populations to mount campaigns to oppose and counter this genocide.

GF Impact Award Honoree: Leigh Ann Hahn

Leigh Ann Hahn, who started at Grand Performances in 1992, is an endlessly creative and innovative programmer.  She is a leading figure in the world music performing arts field who has done a remarkable job producing free programs that pay homage to her beloved LA and its diverse communities with global breadth, depth and power.  Her programs are uniquely multidisciplinary and frequently shine a musical light on significant historical, political and social events.

Lincoln Center’s Atrium Producer Jordana Leigh Introduces Matthew Covey/ GF Trouble Worldwide Award – Photo Evangeline Kim

GF Trouble Worldwide Award Honoree: Matthew Covey and Tamizdat

Tamizdat, founded in 1998 by Matthew Covey and a group of musicians, has become a critical organization in the performing arts and cultural exchange fields.  Tamizdat’s work facilitates cultural exchange by easing the burden of the visa process for artists entering the U.S through their programs: legal visa assistance, outreach, the Artist Mobility Forum, The White Paper Project and other activities.  Their mission is motivated by the conviction that the international mobility of culture is fundamental to a healthy and progressive global civil society and their work has enabled thousands of artists to perform on stages across the country.

GF Pioneer Award Honoree: Lee Williams

Lee Williams has worked professionally as a venue booking agent, promoter, and non-profit arts leader since 1982, playing a defining role not only in the music culture and community identity of Bloomington, Indiana, but also as a champion of world music in North America.  A co-founder of the Lotus World Music & Arts Festival and founder of the non-profit Lotus Education and Arts Foundation, Lee served as Director of Lotus from 1995 to 2013 and as Artistic Director from 2014 through his retirement in 2017.  He also co-led the creation of the Midwest Consortium, a professional block-booking network for world-music presenters that now includes peers from across the US and Canada.

GF Artist Award Honoree: Mighty Sparrow/Slinger Francisco

83 year-old Slinger Francisco, better known as Mighty Sparrow and affectionately dubbed The Birdie, is the unrivaled Calypso King of the World.  With a career that spans over 60 years and counting The Sparrow is one of the most important living exponents of one of Caribbean music’s most important traditions, known for a combination of politics, daily life, humor, innuendo and dance music. Sparrow continues to translate his witty island authenticity to the world, in a one-man demonstration ot the role that culture plays in uniting humankind.

Part II: APAP World Showcase Notes

APAP’s conference is the best occasion of the year to sample favorites of promoters and agents from all over North America and beyond.  There are so many superb acts going on simultaneously, you literally need to be in several packed venues at once on any given night. These were some of my favorites.

Zaiko Langa Langa – Photo Evangeline Kim
Bazurto All Stars – Photo Evangeline Kim

Africa Yetu & Mateo Productions presented one of the best programming feats in this new year known as “The Soukous/Champeta Project” at S.O.B.’s nightclub.   They co-billed the classic soukous group, Zaiko Langa Langa from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and one of the most popular champeta groups, the Bazurto All Stars from Colombia.  Musical cousins, Zaiko Langa Langa celebrates its 50th anniversary while the Bazurto All Stars was formed just 10 years ago.  Their generational and historically related genre contrasts – reaching as far back as the early 70s – were revelatory.  The dance energies were contagious and at maximum levels of audience enjoyment.  However, the club’s poor sound engineering marred the overall quality of their performances.

Mundial Montréal, North America’s World Music Summit, held their annual 7th edition “Mundial On the Road” APAP showcase in partnership with the DROM nightclub.  Theirs is one of the most popular and “thoughtfully curated” showcase evenings during the conference. And always cram-packed.  Drawing from Canada’s vast cultural diversities including their Indigenous First Nations, and stand out international artists, Mundial Montreal’s annual 9th edition summit will take place in Montreal, November 19-22, this year.

This year the Mundial + DROM roster featured 5 Canadian groups with Afro-Cuban, Colombian, Mexican, and Balkan roots.  Two others were from southern Italy and Haiti/New York.  I caught the last two acts: Lemon Bucket Orkestra from Canada and Malou Beauvoir from New York.

Lemon Bucket Orkestra – Photo Evangeline Kim

Lemon Bucket Orkestra is a Balkan brass band uniting Ukrainian, Russian, Macedonian, Serbian, Romanian, and English languages in performance.  Their songs covered many subjects with thrilling, high-energy paced rhythms with deep folk soul.  A walk down a village street arm in arm with a girlfriend; wishing the audience a good night; sibling rivalry; love and loss. 

The stunning musical moment was Marichka Marczyk’s solo “Zajdy, Zajdy” –  “My heart stopped as in a dream”.  She sang with such sorrowful passion, the club room seemed to fall into a swoon of silence.  A well-known Macedonian song  beloved all over the Balkans, a woman sings at twilight to a tree: “Let’s cry together, you for your falling leaves and me for my lost years.  Your leaves will grow back, but my years will never return…”  In their triumphant, rousing finale, the band trooped off the stage into the audience playing their strings, brass, and thumping percussion in gleeful unison.

Malou Beauvoir with Paul Beaubrun – Photo Evangeline Kim

The Haitian-American singer Malou Beauvoir known for her international jazz career, surprised with entirely new music from her recent album “Spiritwalker” – where she explores her Haitian roots.  Her buoyant performance celebrated and conjured the healing Vaudou spirits of her heritage.  She professed her faith in their power to awaken and bless humanity.  To protect us. To guide us all to peace and harmony.  Paul Beaubrun from Boukman Eksperyans lineage and her partner in the recording, appeared with her superb band from Haiti, New York, Japan, and Cuba.  The whole night reached an ecstatic musical moment when Paul and Malou sang their pop hit version of one of Haiti’s deep Vaudou songs by Toto Bissainthe, “Rasanblemen”, or the “rassemblement” of spirits – to honor and comfort victims of oppression and slavery.  It was also a prayer and plea for world unity.

Winter Jazzfest

Brice Rosenbloom – Photo Evangeline Kim

All in all, Winter Jazzfest continues to grow and expand phenomenally.  This year, its 15th anniversary, the festival extended well beyond APAP’s official dates over 9 days.  Within the thematic framework of social justice, the focus was gender equity with over 140 groups, 12 venues, and close to 750 participating musicians.  (Disclosure: Much as I intended to see many more showcases following APAP, I was hit by the flu.) 

I look forward to Winter Jazzfest each year for many reasons, especially the international-related performances.  Despite the feat of producing multiple differing jazz genre showcases all over lower Manhattan venues, the sound engineering is almost always perfect, as you sprint from stage to stage. I’m not forced to pull out earplugs to deaden overly aggressive or amateurish engineering. I find it impossible to review good shows when the sound levels are deafening or imbalanced. (Lighting is another issue…) Brice Rosenbloom, the founder-producer, and his team deserve highest kudos for the foremost crucial aspect of live music: excellent sound quality. 

There’s always a well-organized and invaluable program booklet that gives you all the basic festival information with venue maps, artist personnel and instrumentation, and good thematic introductory notes:  In his tough-minded essay-manifesto,“Why Have We Been So Ass Backwards?”, Brice reflects upon last year’s Winter Jazzfest conversation at The New School on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  “Jazz and Gender: Challenging Inequality and Forging a New Legacy”.  Here are some excerpts:

Terri Lyne Carrington moderated the panel featuring activist and professor Angela Davis, bassist  Esperanza Spalding, journalist Lara Pellegrinelli, trumpet player Arnetta Johnson, and pianist Vijay Iyer.

Terri Lyne Carrington started by asking the panel, “Considering the role jazz and jazz musicians have played in social justice movements why have we been so ass backward in this one with regards to women?

Angela Davis reminded the 600-person audience that we are witnessing the beginning of the era of women; “There was the amazing women’s march, millions of women all over the world rose up against the Trump administration and the message was when women rise up, the whole world rises up with us.” Davis then reiterated Carrington’s quandary, “It’s kind of bizarre that in the jazz community that has been so responsible over the decades for major contributions to social justice for doing civil rights work before the civil rights movement was born;  it’s kind of amazing that the jazz community isn’t leading the rest of us with respect to issues of patriarchy.” 

Journalist Lara Pellegrinelli echoed these concerns when witnessing the #metoo and #timesup movements: “I was watching this movement gain momentum, women in the media, and women in Hollywood, and all these women in other spheres of labor stepping forward and outing their oppressors.  And I was watching and asking myself when it it going to happen [in jazz]?”….

Today, with individual actions and music as the spark, it still takes the whole community – including men – to bring about change. Vijay Iyer challenged that “men can have feminist thoughts but what are they doing about it?” Carrington shared a quote from Jack DeJohnette: “Artistry is artistry no matter what the gender is.  It’s time for women to take their rightful place as equals in our predominantly patriarchal society.  Now more than ever is a time for my gender to stop being part of the problem and embrace being part of the solution.” 

As many musicians echo strong messages in their music and offer a soundtrack to the movement, we have seen real ripples of change over the past year towards progress in the jazz community.  This progress is absolutely vital to countering the bitter reality of blatant sexism pervading the jazz community (and overarching music industry)….

Winter Jazzfest is proudly among the first wave of adoptees of We Have Voice; and their Code of Conduct was distributed to all 140+ performing groups and to all participating venues to be posted in artist dressing rooms.  Winter Jazzfest is also a proud member of Keychange.  Last year Vanessa Reed proposed that we become of the first U.S. based festivals to sign the Keychange pledge of gender balance in programming by 2022.  We are proud to have achieved that mark with both our 2018 and 2019 festival lineups. 

There is still much more we can do and intend to do moving forward.  While we reached Keychange’s gender representation goal, we are far from being fully gender balanced.  With nearly 750 musicians performing at this year’s Winter Jazzfest, 129 are women.  While we have taken steps towards gender equality in programming the next step is for bandleaders to also commit to more gender inclusivity in their groups.

In solidarity, we are committed to supporting progress and we hope to further inspire our colleagues, audiences, and artists to feel these ripples of change and to take the individual action necessary to forge a true movement of inclusivity in our jazz community. – Brice Rosenbloom

I am delighted that the Era of Women is happening.  I believe Brice’s gender equity activism is one of the most notable and influential developments in the entertainment industry. Mainstream media is beginning to reflect this. Women journalists and radio hosts have cause to rejoice.

Meshell Ndegeocello, this year’s Winter Jazzfest’s artist-in-residence, with her ensemble, delivered a fire and brimstone version of her tribute to James Baldwin, entitled “No More Water, The Fire Next Time, Auditory Portion”. The set began with a live recording of James Baldwin’s talk, “The Artist’s Struggle for Integrity”,  given in 1963 at New York City’s Community Church. 

It seems to me that the artist’s struggle for his integrity must be considered as a kind of metaphor for the struggle, which is universal and daily, of all human beings on the face of this globe to get to become human beings. It is not your fault, it is not my fault, that I write. And I never would come before you in the position of a complainant for doing something that I must do… The poets (by which I mean all artists) are finally the only people who know the truth about us. Soldiers don’t. Statesmen don’t. Priests don’t. Union leaders don’t. Only poets….  (partial quote).

Meshell hovered at Le Poisson Rouge’s rear stage supplying a fierce bass undertow to the band’s smooth R&B jazz grooves and choir-like gospel harmonies.  Her ensemble unleashed a celebratory testimonial to civil rights’ call to action and consciousness-raising for all the marginalized in song and spoken word.  Staceyann Chin, the performance poet, condemned white supremacy’s exploitation and hatred of black people.  Her righteous fervor intensified as she voiced the pain and anger of the black woman’s centuries-long bondage and victimization.  Redemption lay in her cathartic fury. 

The proclamation, “No More Water, The Fire Next Time!” Baldwin’s rallying cry against injustice, carries even more power today after 56 years – through Meshell Ndegeocello’s extraordinary summoning of his spirit.

Richard Bona’s “Bona De La Frontera (Bona From The Border) – Photo Evangeline Kim

Inspired by Paco de Lucia, Richard Bona, Cameroonian bass player and singer, has been performing his newer flamenco project “Bona De La Frontera” in Europe over the past few years.  Le Poisson Rouge was a Winter Jazzfest American debut.  Leaving aside his past Afro-Cuban explorations, he has plunged into flamenco’s passion.  Judging from the wild elation of the crowds, a recording seems imminent.  In unison with Antonio Rey on flamenco guitar, Mara Rey cantaora, Paco Vega on percussions, Richard Bona’s rippling bass lines were a love serenade to southern Spain’s deep soul tradition. 

Flamenco’s laments and sorrows progressed in heart-skipping, clapped and tapped rhythms by the musicians as Bona called out the untitled songs, “Rumba Uno”, Rumba Dos”… The dramatic tension built slowly and erupted in finale when the “bailaora de flamenco” Pedro Cordoba took center stage during the last two songs.  Showmanship was at a zenith, as Cordoba whirled and stomped at dizzying pace.  The whistling, cheering crowds were enthralled.  No one wanted to leave.

Alfredo Rodriguez and Pedrito Martinez – Photo Evangeline Kim

The memorable highpoint of all the APAP showcases I attended was Winter Jazzfest’s “Duologue” concert – title of the current Quincy Jones produced release– by Cuban jazz stars, pianist Alfredo Rodriguez and percussionist Pedrito Martinez.  Their live performance together at SubCulture surpassed their recording in improvisational brilliance.  Most of the evening’s repertoire, drawn from the album, was a thrilling opportunity to experience superlative musicianship.

Rodriguez’s head constantly bobbed in counterpoint as his fingers sped over the piano keys, skimming spidery delicate passages or pouncing with muscular syncopation.  His ability to produce liquescent, bell-like tonalities, complex trilling ostinatos involving arpeggio-like chromatic scales, and flourished phrasings was sheer listening pleasure.

Pedrito Martinez was the perfect balance in their conversation, a unified rhythmic totality, as he switched between Cuban percussion and his drum set with precision and elan – spelling out the project’s Cuban Santeria spiritual foundations.  Rodriguez in spontaneous surprise, invited the flamenco star Antonio Lizana onstage. Lizana’s vocals wailed and implored for a few moments, recalling Spain with nostalgia.  The duologue ending riffed on a timba rhythm with echoes of an Andalusian melody.  Still can’t get over that showcase, it was so good.

Globalfest

Globalfest promotes outstanding examples of the world’s cultural diversities.  2019 was its 16th edition.  We don’t have a bona fide world music festival in New York City like Chicago’s city-wide World Music Festival, for example – although there are several excellent world music promoters here.  Globalfest’s attraction lies not only in its international scope, but its consistent levels of quality.  (Although there seemed to be a few new-venue sound issues this year.) 

It’s a tough job for the producers to represent and showcase “the world” so successfully each year in a compressed format – 11 or 12 acts over 5 hours. Increasingly difficult visa challenges included.  The producers are mission-driven.  Shanta Thake, one of the co-producers, also served this year as an APAP Conference Co-Chair.  During the APAP opening plenary introductions she paraphrased Martin Luther King Jr.: “We are bending the arc of history for justice.”  That could just as well be the motto of Globalfest.

This year’s showcase of 11 acts was a glorious mix of rhythms and melodies from India, Palestine, South Africa, Mozambique-Ghana-Senegal, Ukraine, Canada’s First Nation Tobique, Mexico, Cuba, Colombia, Tennessee and New Orleans.  It took place at the Copacabana nightclub over 3 floors.

Cha Wa – Photo Evangeline Kim

There were several examples of today’s “freedom voices”.  Cha Wa from New Orleans started off the evening with a rousing blast of 2nd line brass-driven Mardi-Gras parade music, a few of its band members dressed in Native American feather headdress regalia.  With their strutting, funk rhythms, they celebrate and honor the early Native Americans who took in and protected captive Africans during the days of slavery.  South African B.C.U.C. (Bantu Continua Uhuru Consciousness) seems almost beguilingly cool and hip in their recordings, drawing on South Africa’s danceable ethnic rhythms.  But their performance was an explosion of righteous protest and fierce resistance.  The room was boiling with their forceful lyrics and pounding beats.

47 Soul – Photo Evangeline Kim
Orquesta Akokan – Photo Evangeline Kim

Palestine’s 47 Soul played one of the most popular dance grooves over the evening.  The group’s Arabic techno-dabke with its syncopated, sinuous step-dance rhythms electrified the jumping crowds. Their lyrics called for unity, equality, freedom.  By contrast, in classic Latin dance mode, Cuban Orquesta Akokan held sway with signature Afro-Caribbean mambos and son cubanos harking back to the 40s and 50s and salsa dura from the 70s – while thoroughly captivating in their contemporary big band brightness.  Theirs holds a vast history of cultural pride, triumph over social struggles, and the sacred rhythms of Santeria.

Amythyst Kiah – Photo Evangeline Kim

Hailing from Johnson City, Tennessee, and steeped in the great traditions of African American spirituals and blues, Amythyst Kiah’s deep, tempered vocals with her melismatic wails cast a neo-folk spell among all present.  When she switched from her guitar to her banjo, she noted that the instrument has its roots in West Africa’s fretless ngoni lute.  A rising star, she preserves memories of the long, musical journeys from Africa to Appalachian traditions by African Americans with effortless style, grace, and conviction not heard in a long time.

Jeremy Dutcher – Photo Evangeline Kim

Tobique First Nation’s Jeremy Dutcher’s recent album “Wolastoqiyik Lintuwakonawa” won Canada’s 2018 Polaris Music Prize.  A classically-trained tenor, composer, and musicologist, his determination to help preserve, dignify, and honor his rapidly disappearing Indigenous Wolastoq language is a worthy cause.  There are fewer than 100 speakers of the language today.  His set, sung in Wolastoq, was moving, emotional, solemn, as his operatic vocals dramatized his long research into the traditional music.  He celebrated his culture with songs about honor, a chief’s installation, a wedding dance, canoeing, and water spirits.  Bravo to Globalfest for its activism in being part of what may become an Indigenous linguistic and cultural renaissance in North America.

Finis

We are passing through a dark period.

The precise role of the artist… is to illuminate that darkness, blaze roads through that vast forest, so that we will not, in all our doing, lose sight of its purpose, which is, after all, to make the world a more human dwelling place. – From James Baldwin’s 1962 essay, “The Creative Process”

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Artist Profiles: Andrew Cronshaw

Andrew Cronshaw

Andrew Cronshaw was born April 18, 1949 in Lancashire, United Kingdom. He is known for both his music and his writing. His writing appears frequently in British publication FRoots and other magazines. And he is also the author of the chapters devoted to Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, The Faroes, Iceland, the Baltic States and Portugal in the most recent version of the Rough Guide to World Music.

Musically, Andrew’s voyage began as a child with a piano and a tin whistle. His primary instrument is now the zither, which lives at the heart of a collection of instruments that have come into his life through his travels, research and enormous musical curiosity. These include: a fujara, which Andrew describes as “a five-foot long Slovakian shepherd’s flute that yields shivering breathy harmonics;” aba-wu from China’s Yunan province, which is his “seductive-toned” brass-reed instrument, and many other string and percussion instruments.

In the early 1990s, Andrew chose to tour most often as a solo performer. With his instruments and a small PA, he played more than 100 performances in ancient English village churches. Solo, in his case, meant he would book the concert, meet the audience at the door, perform, pack up and move on.

Although a U.K. native, over the past twelve years more and more of his time has been spent in Finland. He is fascinated by and increasingly involved in new Finnish music rooted in its folk traditions. Andrew says he is drawn also by the sense of community, especially in Kaustinen, a music center and home to one of the world’s finest music festivals. It was at the Kaustinen Festival he initiated Hauenleuka: a large performance project that involved the floating of a giant seven-meter, five-string kantele down the river Perho accompanied by four hundred local musicians and dancers.

His album On The Shoulders Of The Great Bear, is based on a dozen traditional tunes from Finland, one from Siberia, and three from the Scottish Gaelic-speaking tradition.

Andrew founded an ensemble called SANS, a collaboration with Finnish musicians.

Andrew’s approach to music includes the belief that instruments “find a particular tune they like.”

Discography:

A Is For Andrew, Z Is For Zither ‎(XTRA, 1974)
Times And Traditions For Dulcimer ‎(Trailer, 1976)
Earthed In Cloud Valley (Trailer, 1977)
Wade In The Flood (Transatlantic Records, 1978)
The Great Dark Water (Waterfront Records, 1982)
Till The Beasts’ Returning ‎(Topic Records, 1988)
The Andrew Cronshaw CD ‎(Topic Records, 1989)
The Language Of Snakes (Special Delivery, 1993)
On The Shoulders Of The Great Bear ‎(Cloud Valley Music, 2000)
Ochre ‎(Cloud Valley Music, 2004)
The Unbroken Surface Of Snow ‎(Cloud Valley Music, 2011)
Live, with SANS (Cloud Valley CV2014, 2014)
Kulku, with SANS (Cloud Valley Music, 2018)

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CRASHfest 2019 to bring the Best of World Music to Boston

CRASHfest will transform the House of Blues in Boston into an indoor global music festival on Saturday, February 23, 2019. With more than ten world music bands playing on three stages, CRASHfest will feature an expansive dance floor and seated balcony overlooking the main stage, the Foundation Room, and the restaurant.

CRASHfest 2019 Lineup:

Angeliqué Kidjo performing the Talking Heads iconic album Remain in Light
Bhangra party band RED Baraat
Tribu Baharú Afro-Colombian champeta band
M.A.K.U Soundsystem Afro-Colombian rhythms
Afro-ska dance band Kotoko Brass
Billy Wylder American folk meets desert blues
Veronica Robles and Her Female Mariachi Band
Traditional Balkan brass band Sarma Brass Band
Soulsha Afro-Celtic funk
French-fusion group The Blue Dahlia
Tap dancers Subject:Matter
Flamenco dancers Isaac & Nino De Los Reyes
Moroccan dancer Soumaya Marose
Malian drummer Moussa Traore

Global street food will be for sale from seven of Boston’s best food trucks.

More at https://crashfest.org

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Artist Profiles: Smadj

Smadj

Tunisian born, Parisian musician Jean-Pierre Smadja (Smadj) grew up listening to Middle Eastern, Brazilian, funk, soul, and folk music. Entering a jazz school at age 15 due to his intense interest in the guitar, Smadj’s musical development came to be characterized by transforming traditional jazz styles into eclectic sounds. This interest in the mechanics of making music led Smadj to pursue a degree in sound engineering, which led to a fruitful career as a recording & sound engineer for famous classical and folk musicians.

Releasing his first album in 1994, it was not until 2000 that Smadj became recognized on an international scale for his signature blending of acoustic and electronic sounds on Equilibriste, which would ascend on the European World Music Charts to the number 4 position. In 2002, Smadj joined fellow ud magician, French musician Mehdi Haddab, for a special project that would transport the oud to the 21st century in DuOuD. Supporting their triumph of an album with a 2 year world tour, the album also received 2nd place in the Best Album category at the prestigious BBC World Music Awards.

In 2003, Smadj joined master percussionist Burhan Ocal for and the Trakya All Stars featuring Smadj, and in 2005 he stepped behind the scenes to serve as artistic director for Burhan Ocal’s New Dream. Smadj continues making music in the city where east meets west, Istanbul.

Discography:

Equilibriste ‎(M.E.L.T. 2000, 1999)
New Deal ‎(Electric M.E.L.T., 2000)
Kırklareli İl Sınırı (Doublemoon, 2003)
Take It and Drive (Most Records, 2004)
Smadj Presents SOS (Doublemoon, 2005)
Trakya Dance Party (Doublemoon, 2006)
Selin ‎(MVS Records, 2009)
Hü (MVS Records, 2010)
Fuck The DJ (Smadj Records, 2012)
Spleen ‎(Jazz Village, 2015)
Solotronic ‎(Whirling Wolf, 2017)

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Ibero-American Showcase and Conference EXIB Música 2019 to be Held in Portugal

The 5th edition of EXIB Música will take place in Setúbal, Portugal during June 13-15, 2019. The event celebrates the musical diversity of Ibero-America (Spain, Portugal and the Spanish and Portuguese countries of the Americas).

EXIB Música includes international showcases, conferences and workshops.

More information at www.exibmusica.com

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