Technicolor Bollywood big-band pop. Dutch-Antillean global-bass dance beats. Appalachian-Chinese avant-folk. Mauritanian desert soul. Not only are those descriptions real, but artists actually encapsulated by those phrases will appear at this year’s globalFEST, a 12-act, single-evening world-music celebration spread across three stages at Webster Hall. If you’re tired of the same old sounds, but too busy to travel in search of new ones, here’s a chance to listen in on a good chunk of the planet in just one night.
The biggest name playing the fest this year is Moroccan superstar Hassan Hakmoun, who has collaborated with John Cale, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ozomatli and the Kronos Quartet, among others. Endowed with wise vocals and a bright, rubbery lute called a sintir, Hakmoun unearths hypnotic grooves that are at once grounded and transcendent.
The Wu-Force, comprising banjoist-vocalist Abigail Washburn, multi-instrumentalist Kai Welch and singer-guzheng player Wu Fei, makes unusual but inviting music. The trio’s mix features Beck-like mopiness, sleepy psychedelia, beautiful vocals and pleasant pop hooks; Appalachian-Chinese avant-folk only begins to explain what’s going on. And Mauritania’s Noura Mint Seymali places her focused, melismatic vocals and mastery of the ardine (a harp traditionally played by women) atop deep funk grooves—desert soul is right on target.
Though these artists and the many others appearing at globalFEST hail from different corners of the planet and possess individual sounds, they all have charisma, ambition and depth in common. In that sense, at least, it’s a small world.
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