The third annual GlobalFest, held at the Public Theater in New York during the weekend of January 21 and 22, provided a nonstop series of world music revelations. With 13 artists—from locales as far-flung as Senegal, Russia and Brooklyn—performing in three different interconnected venues, aficionados and newbies alike could sample from the international menu or, when intrigued enough by a particular artist, stay for the full course. Each artist performed a 45-minute set, with starting times staggered 20 minutes apart to allow for room-hopping. The same lineup performed both nights.
Among the highlights were Frank London’s Klezmer Brass All Stars, who take the Jewish-originated party music to the next level by infusing the form with a funky downtown Manhattan sensibility. The basic klezmer group was augmented by Kol Isha, a troupe of Hasidic women vocalists, and Maracatú New York, a percussion ensemble that took its cues from Brazilian Carnivale drummes.
Frenchman Juan Carmona, a virtuosic flamenco guitarist, started off solo, a fireball on his instrument, before bringing on his band, which expounded on the themes Carmona introduced on his own. A lone male dancer tapped rhythms and provided the link to the more traditional flamenco components.
Daby Touré, a singer-songwriter and guitarist from Mauritania, brought a pop-rock sensibility to his good-time music, one of the cheeriest performers of the night. And Daara J, Senegal’s highly touted hip-hop posse, lived up to their hype. If some of their moves and beats were a bit tired from an American standpoint, that didn’t prevent the packed room from falling into step—Daara J, who rapped in four different languages, received a riotous response.
Auktyon, described as an “art-rock” band from Russia, was among the most extreme acts on the bill. Fronted by a lanky wildman and bolstered by a bottom-heavy horn section, Auktyon had some audience members heading for the door prematurely while up front, a contingent of, presumably, Russian devotees sang along with every word. Balkan Beat Box, a group of New York-based Israelis, fused klezmer and electronica, as well as a commanding visual presence, to win over the curious.
Lura, a singer from Portugal with roots in Cape Verde, was one of the evening’s gentler and more alluring performers. Although comparisons to Cape Verdean legend Cesaria Evora were inevitable, Lura only touched upon the elder woman’s sound, bringing her own sensuality and a more contemporary vibe to her mix. Niyaz, an L.A.-based group fronted by the Iranian-born, India-raised Azam Ali, was also on the softer side, deftly melding Sufi poetry with Indian percussion, Middle Eastern lutes and electronics spewed from a laptop.
Other artists at GlobalFest included Brazilian DJ Dolores; the popular Louisiana Cajun band Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys; and three acts with a French tw