Every January brings the big Association of Performing Arts Presenters conference to New York, where artists display their wares to concert bookers in hope of getting bigger and better gigs in the years to come. The payoff for music fans is a slew of concerts. The biggest world-music themed showcase is globalFEST, a three-stage, 12-act event held at the East Village venue Webster Hall. This year's is Sunday, Jan. 8. NPR Music will be there to record the show, so visit our globalFEST page for updates, as well as coverage from previous years.
The globalFEST idea is to present a wide range of artists and styles from across the world, comprised mostly of up-and-coming and younger performers who are fairly new to the North American touring circuit. Each year brings new blood — no band or solo artist plays globalFEST twice.
Meet The Artists
Unlike globalFEST night proper, you get to sample this year's artists in slightly less frantic fashion in this mix.
The Gloaming is a new project featuring several top-notch players of traditional Irish folk music. These include Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Caoimhín Ó Raghallaigh and Iarla Ó Lionaird, singer for the roots-electronic outfit Afro-Celt Sound System, as well as quirky, classically trained indie artist Thomas Bartlett a/k/a Doveman (who once covered the entire Footloose soundtrack).
Paris-based Haitian singer-songwriter BélO is noted for lyrics calling for political and social change. Reggae is a key influence, as are elements of Haitian traditional rhythm and melody.
The 9-piece powerhouse Yemen Blues is a Bedouin-inspired, horn-and-percussion driven musical brainchild of Yemeni-Israeli singer Ravid Kalahani and bassist/oud player/arranger Omer Avital. When this band goes full throttle, as on "Eli," total catharsis ensues — but there is also a subtler side, as you'll hear on "Om Min Al Yaman."
You'll also hear Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino's careening pizzica tarantata and other traditional sounds from Salento, Puglia in southern Italy — a great tradition not actually heard that often in the US.
There's perhaps the most sublime and experimental artist in this year's lineup, Chinese-born, Paris-based jaw harp master Wang Li, who uses both traditional and avant-garde techniques and improvisation to create a surprising sonic palette.
Deep-voiced French singer Zaz then brings us to new-generation French chanson and gypsy swing with elements of other styles in the mix. Mayra Andrade is another engaging young singer, from Cape Verde via France. Cape Verdean music has long been notable for its stylistic range, influenced by Africa but also other Lusophone countries like Brazil and Portugal, and Andrade's base in Paris stretches it even wider.
The Silk Road Ensemble, as you may know, was initiated by the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma, but the group is now stepping out on its own without Ma. The Ensemble's dozen-plus virtuoso musicians play a range of traditional instruments spanning Europe and Asia, from the Chinese pipa of Wu Man (who's been featured on a Tiny Desk Concert) to the Galician gaita (bagpipe) of Cristina Pato.
We also pump up the volume with the New York-based Afro-Colombian juggernaut M.A.K.U Sound System. M.A.K.U has a rootsy base driven by its potent percussion section working from traditional Afro-Colombian rhythms, and its style sometimes extends into a swirling, psychedelic cumbia.
SMOD is a new Malian rap group that shows the influence of a couple of influential helpers. The Malian duo Amadou and Mariam are the parents of one of SMOD's members, and several songs are like rap-infused variations on their music. Producer Manu Chao gave the group's debut album an effervescent feel reminiscent of his playful and lively production on Amadou and Mariam's Dimanche a Bamako.
Diogo Nogueira is probably the biggest star in this year's lineup — albeit back home in Brazil, where he's a TV idol. He's trying to cross over to North America with his upbeat, Rio-style samba-canção. And closing out globalFEST is Debo Band, a dynamic young Boston-based group with a brassy interpretation of the classic late '60s/early '70s Ethiopian sound. They should provide a rousing finale to a thoroughly enjoyable night of superb music from around the world.
Artists In This Mix:
Mayra Andrade • BélO • Dennis Cahill & Martin Hayes • Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino • Debo Band • Doveman • The Gloaming • Wang Li • M.A.K.U Sound System • Yo-Yo Ma • Iarla Ó Lionaird • Caoimhin Ó Raghallaigh • Diogo Nogueira • The Silk Road Ensemble • SMOD • Yemen Blues • Zaz