Global music has been on the come up since jazz legend Dizzy Gillespie joined forces with Cuban musicians; South African import Miriam Makeba sang plaintively about apartheid and Nigerian political rebel Fela Kuti reconstituted funk and brass. Still, particularly in North America, international musicians (save for Robert Nesta Marley) have found the barriers of language, dialect and or culture difficult to hurdle to commercial success and household recognition.
CAPTIONS BY NICK CHARLES
For the last seven years globalFest, a modestly scaled, Manhattan-based, one-night smorgasbord of music has introduced unknowns; re-introduced the forgotten and exposed audiences to brilliant performers. Angelique Kidjo, Emeline Michel, Lila Downs, Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, Calypso Rose and Pistolera have all been featured in the past. This year's festival, in New York on Sunday, is just as eclectic: A Celtic chanteuse; practitioners of old school salsa dura and the foremost Transylvanian Blues/Rock band on the planet.
From Burkino Faso, "the prince in the bare feet" has a mellifluous voice and a gentle touch on the acoustic guitar. While lilting, his sound is danceable and incorporates both the traditional West African Kora and bottom bass. globalFest marks his U.S. debut.
Northern Ireland's Dillon navigates between authentic Celtic offerings and blues-infused pop updates. She has been around for a while, having fronted the folk group Equation in the mid-1990s and has a good following.
These are the musical children of French super talents such as Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. The septet mixes in dub, house and hip-hop, creating a potent new dance music cocktail.
Jim Farber of the New York Daily News writes that the Argentine singer risks fitting the cliché of "the Latin lover. But his music breaks the mold by also sifting in reggae-inflected beats and Mexican boleros."
Francois Ladrezo & Alka Omeka
You may never have heard of Gwo-ka, traditional music from the French Antillean nation of Guadeloupe, but Ladrezo is one of its foremost practitioners. Listen closely, and you'll recognize the Brazilian and Jazz influences, even as Ladrezo sings over it all in his native Creole.
La Cumbiama eNeYe
Though most of this ensemble resides in New York City, its musical fealty remains with its native Colombia. By blending tropical and Latin America rhythms from Colombia's Pacific and Caribbean coasts with distinctive urban beats of its adoptive city, the band keeps the party going.
Just as there is "conscious reggae," there is salsa consciente. And this 5-year-old, New York City-based group plays it with gusto. "We tell stories through our music about the streets, and our lives," says vocalist and songwriter Gilberto Velazquez.
Meta & the Cornerstones
Reggae by way of Senegal. Lead singer Meta Dia grew up in Dakar, Senegal, listening to Bob Marley and James Brown. He sings in four languages-English, French, Wolof and Fulani-but the message is the same: Ire, man!
Another U.S. debut, this time with music fromBurayts and Mongolians. The lead singer was born in a small village near the borders of Tibet, Russia and China, and she strives to preserve the folk music of her ancestors-music that easily could become extinct. There is an overlay of rock and jazz, which gives the music a modern sensibility.
Nguyen Le's Saiyuki
Those who know music mention this French guitarist born of Vietnamese parents in the same sentence as Jimi Hendrix. That's a tall order, but he doesn't seem fazed at all. "My language is jazz, but I have chosen to open it and to feed it with other essential cultures that fascinate me and remind me of my origins," says Le.
"The most bizarre combination of blues, R&B and European Gypsy music that you have ever encountered," trumpets the UK Independent. Where and when, before globalFest, would you have encountered such a thing?