First Night of the Festival

by wjw on September 29, 2015

More music from Globalquerque, New Mexico’s annual celebration of music from all over the world.

There were three stages going on at once, so I didn’t see everybody, and for several of the bands I only saw a few minutes.  Here are some of the highlights.

Cimmarón was advertised as a cowboy band from Colombia, but they seem a lot more than that.  It’s a band where you can hear jazz and flamenco and Andalusia and more.

And they still wear cowboy hats.

EastRiver Ensemble was formed from Chinese music teachers at the Mencius Society in New York, and they perform classical Chinese music (if “classical” is stretched to include the soundtrack of the film Shaolin Temple).  The band consists of four very shy men (who don’t talk), one shy woman, and one woman who isn’t shy, and who talks a lot.  Not all of her jokes seemed to translate to the New Mexico milieu, but that didn’t matter much.

I’m generally a sucker for any group with an erhu in it, and the pipa player showed amazing virtuosity.

This group shouldn’t be confused with the Near East River Ensemble, who play Middle Eastern music.

Emel Mathlouthi is a Tunisian woman exiled for her criticism of the then-dictatorship, and subsequently based in Paris and New York.  She’s a very small woman with a huge, clear voice, and she turned up in the most amazing outfit: poufy around the shoulders, snugged-in at the waist, and flared out at the hips, which gave her an outline like one of those figure-eight shields carried by Homeric warriors.

Her set was riveting even though I didn’t understand the words except insofar as she chose to explain them, and the explanations made it clear that her lyrics are informed by the experience of (1) being a woman who recorded in an Arab country, where such things are often discouraged, (2) performed live in an Arab country, where should things can be really really  discouraged, and (3) then had to flee the country in question, but (4) still retains her idealism.  So I bought the CD.

Joy Harjo is an Okie from Muskogee, but probably not the kind you’re thinking of.  She’s a member of the Mvskoke Nation and was born in Tulsa.  I knew her as a poet who used to teach at UNM.  Who knew she played the saxophone?

I didn’t see a lot of her set, but what I saw is perhaps explained as kinda like Patti Smith, but without the rock and roll.

I only caught the end of Nano Sternset, but enough to see why he’s a big star in Chile.  He’s charismatic, his musical influences are all over the map, and he plays guitar like a virtuoso. What’s not to like?

Otava Yo:  At last some rock and roll!  Never mind that it was all in Russian.  The guys all wore fur hats and white tank tops, and the woman wore a sensible summer dress, and their performance was high-energy Eastern European folk with an anarchic punk edge, reminiscent in its way of, say, Gogol Bordello.

The frenzied Bacchanalian spirit I saw onstage doesn’t seem to have translated to all the band’s videos, unfortunately, but it was enough to keep the audience pogoing for the whole set.  I believe this tune is about the joys of going out in the springtime and punching out your neighbor just for the hell of it.

Aurelio is from an oppressed minority that I’d never heard of, being of the Garinagu.  (The short version: the Garinagu are the descendants of African slaves shipwrecked in 1675 on the island of St. Vincent, where they intermarried with the Carib and set up their own country, which was preserved for some time on account of the French and British being unable to decide which imperialist power was going to take over the place.  Eventually the British won, and conquered St Vincent after a thirty-year campaign.  The African-featured Garinagu were declared “troublemakers” and “ringleaders,” and deported to Honduras, whereas the Carib-featured natives were declared “misled” and “useful,” and presumably sent to work on the new British plantations.)

Aurelio is from the Honduras branch of the family tree, and his music is a lovely melange of African, Indian, Central American, and general Caribbean traditions.

And that, gentles, closed the first night of the festival.  More to come.

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