Courtesy of the artists
Clockwise from upper left: Puerto Candelaria, Emel Mathlouthi, Sam Lee, The Jones Family Singers
Courtesy of the artists
The news headlines weren't always easy to read last week, between the mass shootings in Paris and the relentless violence in Nigeria. But over the weekend, in New York City, some of the most remarkable global music groups in the world converged for a moment of musical solidarity. They came from as far away as Senegal and as close as Texas for the annual globalFEST, one unforgettable night of rapturous dancing, musical meditation and kinship. As Leonard Bernstein once famously said, "This will be our reply to violence: To make music more intensely, more beautifully, more devotedly than ever before."
All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen is joined by NPR Music's Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR contributor and Afropop.org senior editor Banning Eyre, and Rob Weisberg of WQXR (who also hosts WFMU's Transpacific Sound Paradise) to revisit some of the highlights and favorite discoveries from this year's globalFEST.
02Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram
- Song: Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram
- from Kashti
Riyaaz Qawwali is an ensemble based out of Austin, Texas, with members with roots in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. The group also represents multiple religious and spiritual backgrounds, including Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, singing music from all those traditions — but they use the Sufi Muslim qawwali style as their framework. This track is a Hindu religious devotional song whose poetry is several hundreds year old. It includes the often-repeated line, "Ishvara and Allah [respectively, Hindu and Muslim names for God] are Your name; bless us all with wisdom, Lord."
02Ya Tounes Ya Meskina (Poor Tunisia)
- Song: Ya Tounes Ya Meskina (Poor Tunisia)
- from Kelmti Horra
Emel Mathlouthi is a singer from Tunisia whose voice and electronics are an arresting cross between Joan Baez and Bjork. "Ya Tounes Ya Meskina" (Poor Tunisia) is a protest song that became an anthem during the Arab Spring of 2011. It's also one of Mathlouthi's most popular songs. Her only album to date is 2012's Kelmti Horra.
- Song: Jew's Garden
- from Ground of Its Own
Sam Lee was an outdoor survivalist and burlesque dancer before he turned to learning and singing ancient music from the British Isles. But not everything Lee sings is pretty: This track, from Lee's debut album, is a traditional and very unsettling folk song — full of anti-Jewish rhetoric — that hearkens back to the Jews' expulsion from England in 1290 by King Edward I. Lee, who is himself Jewish, sang it at globalFEST 2015, "lest we forget," as he put it, "anti-Semitism, anti-Muslimism, all kinds of fear."
- Song: Maka Shelishit
- from Ashkelon
Emil Zrihan is a countertenor who's known as "the Moroccan Nightingale" for his beautiful, multi-octave voice. Born in Morocco, Zrihan moved with his family to Israel when he was nine. He's still there, singing the music of his community, which brings together Moroccan, Jewish, Syrian, Spanish and Andalusian styles.
- Song: Bailando Asi
- from Amor y Deudas
A live performance by Colombia's Puerto Candelaria is one big party. The music they make is called cumbia, a Latin American sound with beats that make you move.
The Nile Project
- Song: Kulina Wahed
- from Aswan
The Nile Project is a sprawling, revolving group of musicians from the 11 Nile countries, uniting the region's diverse voices, instruments and traditions. Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero started the project in San Francisco in 2011 in response to a growing conflict of water rights in the Nile basin. In this musical gathering, they've found streams of continuity and collaboration.
The Jones Family Singers
- Song: Down On Me
- from The Spirit Speaks
The Jones Family Singers make hard-driving gospel funk. The five sisters, two brothers and their father are based out of out Texas. This album was recorded at Spoon drummer Jim Eno's Public Hi-Fi studios in Austin.
03Noho Paipai/Ta Ha Ua La
- Song: Noho Paipai/Ta Ha Ua La
- from Hula Ku`I
Kahulanui (which means "the big dance") is a Hawaiian-based group, but don't expect a bunch of ukulele music. They've got a big-band sound rooted in an era when horns and drums were staples. The members of Kahulanui perform live behind monogrammed music stands.
Just A Band
- Song: Huff + Puff
- from 82
Just A Band is a self-proclaimed "super nerdy" electronic music collective from Kenya. Their sound draws on everything from hip-hop and jazz to disco and vintage electronic dance music.
- Song: Mame Samb
- from Saraaba
Singer Aida Samb was not an official part of this year's globalFEST, but one of the many other artists up for discovering in the city at the same time, in an evening of all vocal stars from Senegal. Based in Dakar, Samb and her band have a very percussive, driving and intense sound. Samb's performance in New York this past weekend was part of a Senegalese showcase that lasted from 11:30 at night until four in the morning.