On Sept. 22-24, 18 acts from five continents gathered at the National Hispanic Cultural Center to perform at the “biggest party in the Southwest:” ¡Globalquerque!. The cross-genre global music festival has come back for its 18th year on a larger scale than ever before, according to festival founder Tom Frouge.
¡Globalquerque! was created by Frouge and is produced under the nonprofit Avokado Artists, which seeks to promote cross-cultural understanding through the arts. To him, ¡Globalquerque! is the “physical manifestation” of the mission of Avokado Artists.
“If we can open people’s minds up to other cultures in a way where they can no longer be framed as 'the other,' I think that goes a long way towards cross-cultural understanding and I think that, this may sound cliché, but the more you understand other cultures, the harder it is to bomb them,” Frouge said.
Over two nights, artists of all imaginable styles and cultural backgrounds performed across three stages: from Afropop to punk to folk to reggae. Frouge said he attempts to curate a program wholly unique in its diversity of style. It takes a full year to plan ¡Globalquerque!; he starts traveling worldwide and across various world music expositions in October, according to Jade Leyva, volunteer coordinator and local artist.
“There are three stages, and you go from one stage to the next and you’re literally like two minutes away … You can go from Israel to Panama to Ukraine in two minutes,” Leyva said.
Leyva said she first discovered ¡Globalquerque! as an attendee when she went to see Mexican artist Lila Downs and was floored by the variety of musical talents. After working on the event for several years, she married Frouge before taking on the position of volunteer coordinator, where she now oversees around 100 volunteers.
The scale of this year’s ¡Globalquerque! festival excited Leyva, as they had not been able to put it on at this magnitude, with thousands of in-person guests, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, on top of an free opening concert from Son Rompe Pera (who Frouge described as “The Clash with marimbas”), they also, for the first time, held an opening “headphone disco dance party”, with world music spun by local DJs Potion Deep and DJ Mo, projected through individual headphones.
In addition to musical fare, they held a Global Fiesta on Saturday morning which provided film screenings, workshops, dance lessons and food demos with the goal of putting the visiting cultures into context. In addition, they held a day program on Friday for local elementary school students where they were given the opportunity to see performances and learn about these cultures.
“Discovering other cultures is definitely a really wonderful thing because you start learning about the similarities and the differences. But at the same time, the excitement of learning about different cultures: it’s really cool to start giving it to children when they’re really little,” Leyva said.
Many of these acts are striking in their blending of traditional and contemporary musical elements. Estonian group Puuluup, for example, plays the ancient Northern European instrument talharpa through a series of loopers; the Grammy-winning Taos Pueblo native Robert Mirabal injects traditional flute sounds into rock n’ roll music.
One of the biggest acts this year was the Ukrainian group DakhaBrakha, who performed at ¡Globalquerque! around 10 years ago. Since then, they have become a world-touring band as well as activists for their country.
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“One of the comments I get every year is from someone who’s come to ¡Globalquerque! for the first time, and they say ‘I had no idea that this festival was this’ … I would say, maybe they think it’s gonna be like, ethnomusicological or stayed or kind of folk-y, and it’s not. Like, some of the hippest bands playing in the Southwest this weekend are on our stages — it’s just they might not sing in English,” Frouge said.
For Leyva, ¡Globalquerque!’s power lies in its ability to expose people to the otherworldly experience of witnessing great art on a worldwide scale.
“Music is a universal language, and in a time of separatism, when people wanna separate from each other, this is a really good opportunity to encourage people to come together at a deeper level through the arts and just understand how we are all definitely connected and we’re all human,” Leyva said.
Zara Roy is the copy chief at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DailyLobo