More About the Artists
“Alif's soaring vocals, choral orchestration, sound score, and delicate guitar add levels of breath-taking poignancy, longing and exhilaration.”
–Roberta Levitow, Artistic Associate Sundance Institute East Africa
Known as the prince with the bare feet, Alif Naaba has been steeped in the musical traditions of Burkina Faso, West Africa. Atop pulsating polyrhythmic percussion, harp-like kora textures, and funky bass and guitar riffs, Naaba’s majestic voice invites audiences to become subjects of his colorful acoustic Afro-pop kingdom. Dense yet danceable, his vibrant music penetrates the body, mind, and soul as his socially conscious lyrics, sung in Mooré and French, tell of the hardships that his country and continent face, while offering a message of hope and positivity for the future. As a composer, Naaba has participated in the Sundance Institute’s Sundance East Africa, collaborating with playwright Odile Gakire Katese (Rwanda) and choreographer Flora Théfaine (Togo). globalFEST marks the US debut of his band.
“Dillon’s crystalline, angelic voice is an instrument of rare beauty capable of melting the sternest of hearts” –BBC
Whether reviving Irish traditional song or creating innovative contemporary Celtic collages, Cara Dillon’s sweetly seductive voice shimmers with captivating elegance. Born into a musical family in Northern Ireland, her vocal talents were recognized and cultivated from a young age, leading to numerous accolades as a teenager. After singing with Irish notables such as Oige and De Danna, she lent her voice to the folk supergroup Equation in 1995, but soon decided to leave the group with partner Sam Lakeman. Together, Lakeman and Dillon have produced music that pushes Celtic song in new directions, infusing it with bluesy soul, while retaining its Irish heart.
Label: Rough Trade Records
“With their ‘Zazou’ look (inspired by Parisian paleo-punks from the 1940s), they serve up festive, frantic music, an improbable futuristic and melodious Charleston fit for the dance floor.” –Radio Nova
The swingin’ sounds of Gypsy jazz echo through the electro, house, dub, and hip-hop grooves of this Parisian ensemble. Founded by a trio of musicians who share a fascination with French jazz icons such as Django Reinhart and Stephane Grappelli, this cadre grew to a septet after recording their first album in 2005. Caravan Palace’s contemporary danceclub re-inventions of manouche (Gypsy-style) jazz capture all the classic sophistication of a 1930’s Parisian café, while evoking a futuristic cinematic landscape. One of France’s top-four selling artists in 2009, Caravan Palace’s albums have gone Platinum in their home country, and earned them a nomination for the prestigious Vitoires del la Musique (French Grammy-equivalent) in the electro category. Caravan Palace will make their US debut at globalFEST.
Label: Café de la Danse/Wagram
“An aggressive and gifted reanimator of Louisiana Creole music, Cedric Watson sings in entrancing brays and yelps and plays fiddle and accordion in cocksure fashion.” –Jon Caramanica, New York Times
Growing up in the hills of east Texas, Cedric Watson was surrounded by the sounds of country, blues, soul, and zydeco. Spurred by his deep interest in Cajun music, he developed skills as a fiddler, vocalist, accordionist, and songwriter. On a quest to explore the roots of zydeco, Watson moved to Lafayette, Louisiana where his talents were quickly recognized and became a vital part of the Creole community. After earning his stripes with a number of legendary musicians, he formed his own band Bijou Creole, which explores the cultural gumbo of French, Spanish, African, and Caribbean sounds that give Cajun music its unique flavor. Reflecting his devotion to preserving, exploring, and sharing this eclectic heritage of Creole music, Watson notes that, “I want to present the Creole nation of Louisiana to the Creole nations in other parts of the world, to make these Creole cultures aware of the one in Louisiana and vice versa.” Winner of the Big Easy award for Best Zydeco Artist, Watson also earned a Grammy nomination for his work with the Pine Leaf Boys.
Label: Valcour Records
“Given a voice deep with whispering mystery, and an acoustic guitar style that glides with a tango’s grace, it’s small wonder Argentina’s Federico Aubele fits the cliché of the Latin lover. But his music breaks the mold by also sifting in reggae-inflected beats and Mexican boleros.” –Jim Farber, Daily News
In a low sultry tone, Federico Aubele’s voice caresses a romantic lyrical ballad, gently laying it down on a soft bed of Spanish-inflected acoustic guitar and subtle electronic rhythmic ambience. Inspired by the boleros, tangos, and bossa novas his mother played for him as a child growing up in Buenos Aires, Aubele imbues this musical menagerie with hints of rock, dub, downtempo electronica, and jazz. Aubele’s songs are at once intimate and personal, yet speak of broad human experiences. “Your inspiration always comes from your internal world and your feelings,” he says, “But you expose that through your art in a way that other people can connect with. That’s where it starts becoming universal.” Aubele has toured with such diverse artists as Thievery Corporation (whose label ESL he is signed to) and Diana Krall.
Label: ESL Music
François Ladrezo & Alka Oméka
“Francois Ladrezo is a true Gwo-ka (Guadeloupean folk music) master. The fleet of drummers in his group Alka Oméka serve as the perfect accompaniment to Ladrezo’s poignant lyrics and confident presence.” –Rayme Samuels, flyglobalmusic.com
Often called “the voice of Guadeloupe,” Francois Ladrezo draws inspiration from the diverse diasporic sounds of this tiny French Caribbean island where he makes his home. For decades he has been one of the most significant contributors to the development of a traditional music genre indigenous to Guadeloupe, known as Gwo-ka. His current project tastefully fuses the traditional rhythms and instruments of Gwo-ka with contemporary jazz, reggae, Brazilian, and Creole styles. Backed by the funky and complex polyrhythmic texture of African-style hand drums, Ladrezo’s vocals – often sung in Creole - express folktales, advocate unity, and impart the wisdom of his years. His talents as a vocalist, percussionist, and songwriter have been sought after by jazz saxophonist David Murray and many others. He is a prominent voice in the Guadeloupian cultural movement called Akiyo, which features a local re-interpretation of Carnival. Presented in association with Anyway Organisation.
Label: Alka Omeka Sound
La Cumbiamba eNeYe
“The beat that keeps partygoers moving lies at the heart of La Cumbiamba's music and dynamic live performances.” –E-town, national radio program
With their densely danceable percussive grooves, punctuated with brass accents, indigenous flute overtones, festive horn lines, and gritty guitar riffs, La Cumbiamba eNeYe invites listeners to join their celebration of Colombian culture. Capturing the inclusive spirit of the outdoor parties that take place in Colombia, known as ‘cumbiambas,’ this ensemble revives several distinct South American musical genres, reworking these traditions within a contemporary cosmopolitan sonic context. Founded by a core group of Colombian musicians who emigrated to New York City, these inventive artists combine the diversity of sounds from the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of their native country, while infusing these roots with the sensibilities cultivated in their new metropolitan home.
Label: Chonta Records
“In a city saturated with ‘old school’ salsa bands, independent label CDs, and salsa dancing freaks, New York’s most sought after band, La Excelencia has managed to bridge all these cultures by sharing the music they so passionately play.” –Chris Soto, Mambo
Not just another salsa band, La Excelencia revive elements of salsa dura to give their music a harder, more aggressive edge. Founded in New York City by Julian Silva and Jose Vazquez-Cofresi in 2005, their explosive music is not only infectious and danceable, but also socially conscious and political. They use their hardcore sounds to reinforce lyrics that speak of the hardships of the barrios (slums) and the Latino experience in America. “The music that we write has a lot to do with the people,” says vocalist and songwriter Gilberto Velazquez. “We tell stories through the music about the streets, and our lives.” Noting the bands’ departure from other salsa groups, he adds, “We take away the importance of image. We don’t dress up in uniforms. We want people to know us for our music.” In all, La Excelencia represents a new generation of salsa consciente – salsa with a message.
Label: Handle with Care Productions
Meta & the Cornerstones
"Meta and the Cornerstones have taken us back to the foundation of reggae music. It's a band that sounds tight and wicked with infectious lyrics.” -Clive Chin, Jamaican producer for The Wailers, Dennis Brown, and Lee Perry
Born and raised in the bustling, diverse, cosmopolitan city of Dakar, Senegal, Meta Dia grew up listening to the likes of Bob Marley and James Brown as well as local African musical traditions. Impressing audiences in Senegal since the age of 14, he came to New York City in 2002 and soon started collaborating with several noted hip-hop artists. With his own band, Meta’s powerful singing and songwriting abilities shine, as he reinvigorates reggae by reconnecting it with its African roots. Weaving between a multilingual palette of French, English, Wolof, and Fulani, his music breaks barriers as it builds bridges across the Atlantic. Promoting tolerance and unity, Meta’s music is uplifting and positive, while it re-imagines reggae with an African aesthetic.
Label: 54 Soundz
“Namgar sings in a voice that is outstanding and miraculous. She sings the songs of Burayts and Mongolians, preserving the traditions of her own people and introducing us to the world of the ancient nomads of Eurasia.” –khomus.com
Over a blend of ancient Asian string instruments and contemporary cinematic electro-rock, the lush, reverberant, yet delicate vocals of singer Namgar Lhasaranova soar like the white clouds over Tibet from which she and the group take their names. Front woman Namgar was born into a Buryat family line of shamans in a tiny village where the borders of Russia, Mongolia, and China meet. Reflecting this unique geographical and cultural intersection, Namgar’s music echoes with the voices of their ancestors as it evokes the mystical forested mountains of the Central Asian steppes. While actively preserving Buryat traditional folk songs, which are in danger of becoming extinct, the group also re-invents these tunes with their modern rock, jazz, and electronica sensibilities. globalFEST will mark Namgar’s first US performance.
Label: LV Production
Nguyên Lê’s Saiyuki
“Nguyên Lê is a masterful, inventive player who has cultivated a wholly unique voice on the instrument, he ranks right up there with Frisell, John Scofield, Mike Stern & Allan Holdsworth in the post Hendrix world of jazz guitar.” –Bill Milkowski, JazzTimes
Not only is Nguyên Lê the personification of the stew of culture-crossing that is a daily practice in Paris’ jazz and broader music scenes, he is regularly referred to alongside the best names of freethinking jazz guitar and Jimi Hendrix. Born in Paris to Vietnamese parents, the self-taught musician began to play drums at the age of 15, followed by guitar and electric bass. Having played with O.N.J. (the French National Jazz Orchestra), Lê easily slides from rock, jazz, and funk to Vietnamese, Indian, and North African music. His latest project, Saiyuki, which brings together Japanese koto and shamisen player Mieko Miyazaki and Indian tabla-player Prabhu Edouard, draws on a renowned Chinese 16th century novel. The story’s epic excursion from China to India becomes a metaphor for the three players’ musical journeys, real or imagined. “My language is Jazz, but I have chosen to open it & to feed it with other essential cultures that fascinate me & remind me of my origins,” says Lê. This will be the debut US performance of Nguyên Lê’s Saiyuki trio.
“The most bizarre combination of blues, R&B, and eastern European Gypsy music that you've ever encountered” –The Independent (UK)
Merging the sublime and the absurd, Nucu Pandrea, dressed in overalls and a straw hat, performs harmonica style licks on a tree leaf as the cembalo (hammer dulcimer) and violin provide a Transylvanian timbre over bluesy guitar riffs. Inspired by American blues heroes like B.B. King and Buddy Guy, Nightlosers infuse these familiar forms with the folk music of Eastern Europe. Taking their name from the formative all-night bar gigs the band played in the 1990s, they noticed that their audiences reacted favorably to their Gypsy and Romanian roots-inflected “ethnoblues.” Sounding like a microcosm of globalization, the ensemble re-imagines blues through the ethnic heritage of its members, which includes German, Hungarian, Romanian, and Roma ancestry. Nightlosers will make their US debut at globalFEST. Presented in association with the Romanian Cultural Institute.