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Thursday, December 18, 2014

¡Globalquerque!

Festival won’t be fenced by borders

¡Globalquerque! comes but once a year, and this weekend, ’tis the season to hear music from all over the planet.
The music and culture festival enters its sixth year and is unique in the Southwest, said Tom Frouge, ¡Globalquerque! co-founder.
“There’s only a handful of global music festivals in the country anyway,” he said.

Many groups performing at this year’s ¡Globalquerque! have never played in the U.S. before, giving Albuquerque residents a chance to be among the first Americans to catch some exciting new acts, Frouge said.

“What’s evolved this year is kind of this year of firsts,” he said. “We have a couple legendary bands like Susana Baca and the Flatlanders and Rahim AlHaj. But there’s a lot of debuts. Khaïra Arby from Mali, first U.S. tour. Deolinda from Portugal, first U.S. tour. Kenge Kenge from Kenya, first U.S. tour. And on and on.”

Neal Copperman, the festival’s other co-founder, said there’s a lot to ¡Globalquerque! besides the music, such as its Global Fiesta.
“That’s our free community day. That’s a space where we have the evening performers do workshops that give you a little bit more of a sense of their culture,” he said. “So Emilene Michel is going to do a workshop on the culture of Haiti, and Simon Shaheen is going to do an introduction to Arabic music.”

There is also a “Global Village” that will sell food and crafts from places such as Ethiopia, Brazil and Africa, Copperman said.
The Global Village also features a booth manned by Albuquerque’s own Trillion Space art studio, which will screen-print ¡Globalquerque! designs on whatever material is brought to them.

“You can pick up the shirt, pick the design, and they’ll make it right there in front of you. And if you want, you can bring in your own shirt or bag or jacket or whatever, and they’ll screen-print designs on that, too,” Copperman said.

As for the music, this year’s lineup will feature bands from every continent except Antarctica, as well as local talent.
“One of our other missions is to not only bring the world to New Mexico, but to present New Mexico to the world. So we always have Native America represented … and we always represent New Mexico Hispanic music, both contemporary and traditional,” Frouge said. “It’s not always easy, honestly, because the bands we’re bringing in from around the world are these huge, renowned touring acts … So the (local) bands have to be up to that level to be on the night stages.”

Rahim AlHaj, a Grammy-nominated songwriter and lecturer at UNM, is one of the local acts that reaches the bar set by the international bands. At the festival, he’s debuting his new album, Little Earth.

Alhaj said his primary instrument is the oud, a string instrument from the Middle East, but his CD is about bringing together cultures from around the world and features a variety of collaborators.

“Nobody knows what the oud looks like,” AlHaj said. “They have no idea what is oud and what kind of music we play in this instrument. So as a composer, I’m living here. I came to compose the music for orchestra, for a string quartet, you know, for a guitar quartet, and to make this instrument more familiar.”

Little Earth, which has been in the making for three and a half years, challenges traditional conceptions about genre boundaries and musical styles, AlHaj said.

“It has nothing to do with west or east. There is nothing that is called ‘western music’ or ‘eastern music.’ It is just called music, right? And that is what we have always, a misconception about music: That ‘That’s classical music, and that’s jazz, and this is world.’ Like we live in a different world. It’s all music from this world,” he said. “I believe that music is just music. It has nothing to do with anything else, except that you present your emotion, your culture and your voice.”
Copperman said the festival will give listeners a chance to open their ears to unfamiliar styles of music.
“¡Globalquerque! doesn’t provide artists with strong name recognition. So people aren’t saying, ‘Oh wow. I really wanna see Oreka Tx.’ People are saying, ‘I don’t know who any of these bands are.’ That’s always a challenge in getting people out to see music they don’t know, from cultures that maybe they don’t know,” Copperman said. “It’s not really a show at the Sunshine. It’s a different type of vibe.”

Six bands, four continents

So some fancy global musical fest is happening this weekend, and you’re wondering to yourself “why bother?”
Seriously, you have never heard of any of the names on the ticket, and live shows are often busts. Besides, is that price tag really worth it?
Well, lucky you! The Daily Lobo asked the same question, so we sat ourselves down, plugged in some headphones and sampled all of the artists playing at ¡Globalquerque!.
Some were good, some our we couldn’t even begin to comprehend, but we did find some artists that are well worth exposing to your collegiate ears.

Susana Baca (Perú)
The instrumental bits in Susana Baca’s music are great, but in the end they only serve to enhance her voice. It contains a strange constrained energy that occasionally bursts forth and floors any listener with functioning ear drums. And forget the fact that she’s singing in Spanish, which you should speak anyway. You will get lost in the swaying croon of her voice without ever worrying about what she’s saying. Her emotion says it all. It’s definitely worth your time.

Deolinda (Portugal)
This outfit is one of the top bands in its home country, thanks to its infusion of traditional fado tunes mixed with up-tempo modern rhythms. Listening to lead singer Ana Bacalhau is great, with her delicate voice racing to keep up with the rapid notes on the guitar. And just when you thought her timbre couldn’t be more fragile, the instruments slow and her voice takes on the semblance of a hand-crafted glass rose. Even better, Deolinda’s live performances take on a sort of wildly exuberant and comic energy. If you like dancing around mixed with some sincere emotion, check it out.
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Kenge Kenge (Kenya)
This is the group’s first U.S. tour, and it’s quite the sight to behold. Naturally, the group’s music is the most interesting part of its act, but how it makes the music is pretty interesting, too. Many of the band’s instruments are things you have never heard of (Nyatiti lyre, Bul drums, Nyangile sound box, Ongeng’o metal rings, Asili flute, Oporo horn) because most of them are self-made. You wouldn’t know it listening to the tunes. All that sticks are the powerful guiding vocals with the complex rhythms carrying you along in the background.
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Mariachi Mystery Tour (New Mexico)
If the name sounds to you like some unholy combination of Mariachi tunes mixed with the Beatles, then you are be right, except for one thing: It’s anything but unholy. Sure, some Beatles purists might whine about messing with the original tunes, but anyone else will appreciate the Mariachi wail in Strawberry Fields. Plus, the band hails from New Mexico.

Non Stop Bhangra (India/USA)
If you can imagine mixing traditional Indian dance with some of the heavier beats to come off the dance floor, you might be close to understanding Non Stop Bhangra. The live performances, naturally, are amazing, complete with the vibe you would expect in the club but mixed with Indian dancers on stage. The band even teaches the audience some steps to the classical dance form of Bhangra, and everyone knows that music and dancing go hand-in-hand.
Check out anything the band has on YouTube. The music is good, but the visual performance is even better.

Líber Terán (Mexico)
There’s isn’t a whole lot to say about this performer. Sure, one could talk about his rock-and-roll influences from Johnny Cash and the Beatles and the way they mix with norteña music of Mexico. Hell, one could even describe how his music mixes in electronic influences resulting in fast and sweet tunes. But that doesn’t do him justice. Instead, consider his music video, a two-minute ode to absurdity featuring the artists walking around a train station with a chicken in hand. Oh yeah, don’t miss this guy.

A general note: There will be music in lots of foreign languages, weird styles you have never heard of and music that will never make the radio stateside, but if you can get past that, definitely check out ¡Globalquerque!.