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All-Access Planet: globalFEST 2012 Opens New Spaces for Traditions Transformed

Malian roots rap and sensually fresh samba. Eerily avant jaw harps and 21st-century tarantella. Heritage never sounded so cool.

Whether continuing famous musical lineages or pushing forward on new paths, the artists of globalFEST (January 8, 2012 at New York City’s Webster Hall; full info at show how world music has matured from a quaint, catch-all niche to a meaningful, deeply rooted challenge to the musical status quo. Artists are crafting history into new sounds.

This year’s edition of the annual world music showcase and all-night party includes three U.S. debuts, as well as several fresh programs and approaches from a bevy of respected global performers.

BélO: Haiti’s acoustic innovator and social activist channels his home’s deep and diverse Afro-Caribbean roots with catchy, reggae-inflected songs.

Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino: Southern Italy’s hottest band revitalizes the ancient ritual pizzica tarantata, said to cure the deadly spider’s bite with frenzied trance dances.

Debo Band: Boston-based crew reinvents the Golden Age of Ethiopian and East African funk and jazz.

Diogo Nogueira: Brazil’s red-hot samba (and television) star adds a contemporary twist to the beloved rhythms of Rio.

M.A.K.U. Sound System: Queens, NY-based Afro-Colombian underground band’s roaring guitars, bold brass, and hard-hitting Latin beats and vocals bring down the house.

Mayra Andrade: Golden-voiced Cape Verde singer brings a Parisian and Brazilian flair to her island roots with a new acoustic trio.

SMOD (U.S. Debut): Malian folk rappers, featuring the son of Amadou and Mariam, work serious lyrical flow to create Afro-Rap, wrapped in Manu Chao’s signature globe-trotting production.

The Gloaming (U.S. Debut): Irish and American roots supergroup (Martin Hayes, Dennis Cahill, Iarla Ó Lionaird, and Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh with NY’s indie pianist Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), marries edgy but harmonious, sparse yet beautiful elements to age-old and new tunes.

The Silk Road Ensemble: An international collective of virtuoso musicians from around the globe, this ensemble carries on the cross-cultural legacy of founder and artistic director Yo-Yo Ma, drawing inspiration from the historical Silk Road and contemporary musical crossroads.

Wang Li (U.S. Debut): France-based Chinese jaw harp master-improviser creates wildly unexpected and deeply meditative melodies, discovering the infinite nuances that breath, tongue, and throat can make.

Yemen Blues: Yemeni-Israeli electrifying singer and his global band make Mediterranean sounds rock and soar.

Zaz: French street sounds meet quirky global influences in young singer's plush bluesy voice.


Though many of this edition’s artists have taken up the torch from family members or musical mentors, they are reaching into new sonic territory, whether they are funkifying cumbia or transforming the role of the spike fiddle or jaw harp. globalFEST, as America’s vital world music springboard event coinciding with the annual Arts Presenters Conference (APAP), aims to bring musicians to ears and even into venues once closed to global artists.

“In addition to summer rock and folk music festivals, we’ve started to see an embracing of world music throughout the performing arts field, including more traditionally classical venues,” explains festival co-organizer Bill Bragin (Acidophilus: Live and Active Cultures). “Many of this year’s globalFEST artists are performers who would be appropriate in more traditional concert halls, which are responding to the desire to diversify their programs.”

The goal of access has been at the heart of the festival’s mission since it was founded post-9/11, when dedicated global music presenters looked to restart the stalled influx of international music at a crucial moment. globalFEST remains committed to supporting exchange—both cultural and economic—and has emphasized artists of note from Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, and from Haiti since the earthquake that struck there in 2010.

“globalFEST needs to constantly be aware of its mission,” continues co-organizer Isabel Soffer (Live Sounds). “We spotlight artists we believe presenters will want to book, will be successful in their venues and will bring new audiences. Our curatorial decisions are made with this in mind, and in this way, we feel we can encourage presenters to rethink artists that are on tour.”

2012’s festival promises to indeed be great, filling the multiple, varied performance spaces at Webster Hall with irresistible dance sounds, reflective beauty, and singer-songwriter intensity. globalFEST’s emphasis on access—access to the U.S. market for innovative musicians, continued access to new global music for music fans through reasonable ticket prices supported via globalFEST’s  Kickstarter campaign—now extends beyond good times in the early January cultural doldrums.

With support from the Ford Foundation, the globalFEST Touring Fund is launching to support festival alums on U.S. tours, as well as creating a new program to reimburse festival performers for expenses related to their globalFEST appearances. This, added to ongoing support from founding sponsor, the Cultural Services of the French Embassy, will strengthen the festival’s ability to find uncommonly good, often unheard sounds and bring them to the States.

“Starting this edition, we will be able to offset some of our artists’ expenses, the cost of coming to New York to play a showcase festival,” notes globalFEST co-organizer Shanta Thake (Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater). “It will encourage musicians and expand the pool of artists who can commit to that investment. We are excited about the possibilities these new programs will create to widen globalFEST’s geographical and musical scope.”

“Global citizenry is a priority for France, and for many people worldwide. We support globalFEST in hopes of sharing the multicultural musical heritages of France-based, France-produced and Francophone artists," says Emmanuel Morlet, Director of the Music Office of the French Embassy, the festival’s founding sponsor since its first edition. “From increasing cultural understanding to the real economic role the festival plays for emerging performers, now more than ever globalFEST plays a great role in connecting people across political boundaries.” And gets them dancing while doing it.

globalFEST, Inc. is a not-for-profit production presented in association with Live Sounds, Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater, Acidophilus: Live & Active Cultures and The Bowery Presents. Support provided by The Ford Foundation and The Cultural Services of the French Embassy with additional support from the French Music Export Office, recognizing France’s pre-eminent role as a hotbed of global music activity. The globalFEST media sponsors are WNYC Radio and Artist visa services are provided courtesy of Tamizdat. Publicity services are provided by rock paper scissors, inc.

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