Monday, February 13, 2012

globalFEST 2012 In Photos

globalFEST, New York City's annual musical extravaganza, happened on January 8, 2012. The NPR Music globalFEST recap and discussion, which featured Afropop's Banning Eyre, has been getting a lot of play. The NPR Music site also lets you stream and download each of the 12 sets that went down over the course of a dizzying 5 1/2 hours on three stages at Webster Hall.  Of course, it will take you a lot longer than that to hear it all!  If you accomplish that

This week, keeping the globalFEST buzz going, Afropop Worldwide features a selection of the best songs, together with interviews with key artist, Belo of Haiti, Mayra Andrade of Brazil, SMOD a young hop hop act out of Mali, and more.  Afropop's Marlon Bishop has pulled together a behind the scenes look at this uniquely rich event, and to accompany that, here's a photo essay mostly through Banning Eyre's lens with a few comments from him.


This young Haitian singer-songwriter is one to watch. He's making an interesting fusion of Haitian roots styles and global sounds.  Belo recorded his third CD, Haiti Debout (Haiti Stand Up), in Paris with a number of African musicians, including Blick Bassy of Cameroon and Malian kamelengoni master (of Salif Keita fame) Harouna Samake. The lean, punchy band Belo brought to Webster Hall lacked that sonic richness, but the set had soul.  And its great to hear a strong new voice coming out of Haiti.


This dynamic Israel-based band draws fundamental inspiration from the folklore of Yemen.  But with a near orchestra-sized lineup including strings, brass, percussion backing charismatic frontman Ravid Kahalani, the influences and sonic references run deep. From folksy interludes to full on dance band blare, this group delivers passion through complex, thoughtful arrangements. Yemen Blues played the Ballroom, Webster Hall's biggest venue, and they rocked it!

by Wills Glasspiegel


This ensemble celebrates and reinvents the folklore of southern Italy, a zone beyond the normal scope of Afropop Worldwide.  I walked in cold and was knocked out by the energy and dynamism of the performance.  In the stretch I caught, Guilio Blanco on bagpipes was a standout.


The name is created from the first names of these 4 young Malian musicians, starting with Samou Bagayoko, son of the amazing Amadou and Mariam.  SMOD's hip hop is tuneful and mostly gentle, with some clear nods to the bluesy, strong melodies of A&M.  SMOD's self-titled debut CD was produced by Manu Chao and has his strong stamp.  It was kind of nice to hear the music stripped bare, with just bass and acoustic guitar backing the raps.  That said, this is not the most hard-hitting of African hip hop by a mile, but it is a fresh and welcomed sound from the streets of Bamako.


The largest and most diverse group of musicians on any globalFEST stage this  year was the Silk Road Ensemble, who took over the Ballroom for a wide ranging set of Central Asian music.  This group grew out of the Silk Road project initiated a few years back by Yoyo Ma.  What I heard was completely enchanting, though for a show like this, it might be best to let the music speak and de-emphasise the school presentation aspect of the stage show.


This Cape Verdean/Cuban singer, based in France, is an Afropop favorite. We have caught a number of her performances over the years, and featured her on various programs, including this week's globalFEST roundup, and this season's Ladies in the House program.  Mayra is a complex artist, whose sets can vary in tone and stylistic direction from night to night.  Her globalFEST set had more Brazilian than Cape Verdean flavor, and favored the subdued, jazzy side of her repertoire.  Some felt she would have been better off with a more rootsy and rowdy selection of songs for this occasion, but there is no denying Mayra's charisma, or, above all, her liquid gold voice.  Always a pleasure to behold.


Anyone who heard the NPR Music discussion already knows that my favorite act of the night was this amazing combo out of Boston, led by saxophonist, scholar, and Ethiopian maestro extraordinaire Danny Mekonnen.  Debo Band's core inspiration is the pop music explosion in Addis Ababa in the late '60s and early '70s, the "golden era" so well documented in the Ethiopiques CD series on Buda Musique.  What sets Debo Band apart from other acts that play classic African styles is that they make the music sound contemporary, as if it was just invented now.  The energy and power is overwhelming.  Jazzy, sometimes out, brass solos kick up the dynamic.  And Bruck Tesfaye's vocal is over-the-top.  We can't wait to hear Debo's much anticipated CD this year, on Next Ambiance, an imprint within Sub Pop.  This band is going places!

Ethiopians were in the house, and diggin' it!

Danny Mekonnen and Thomas "Tommy T" Gobena of Gogol Bordello
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