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No Translations Needed At globalFEST 2019

Clockwise from upper left: Orquesta Akokán, Dakh Daughters, Combo Chimbita, Debashish Bhattacharya, Gato Preto
Bob Boilen
for NPR Music
Clockwise from upper left: Orquesta Akokán, Dakh Daughters, Combo Chimbita, Debashish Bhattacharya, Gato Preto

Amidst the constant drumbeat of 2019's political talk, of raising walls and shutting out opposition — this year's globalFEST artists and organizers articulated a very clear vision, one that makes room for bracingly new voices. The one-night festival of global music, held each January in Manhattan, featured a remarkable lineup of musicians from around the world, including India, Cuba, Ukraine, Mozambique, and even New York City itself. Now in its sixteenth year, globalFEST was founded in a post-Sept. 11 era when foreign musicians often struggled to tour the U.S., due to what organizers perceived as a time of increasing xenophobia. But securing visas in difficult times is one of the things that makes globalFEST a special event — the overtly political, Jordanian Palestinian band 47Soul, who performed at this year's festival, was a shining example of that. They, along with the other artists who performed at Sunday night's event seemed to find meaning and inspiration in connections to the past while clearly — and very pointedly — pushing ahead.

Three strikingly different acts invited to this year's globalFEST, which was held this year at the Copacabana nightclub in Midtown, celebrated their respective "futurist" visions. Combo Chimbita, a quartet of first-generation New Yorkers who layer the sounds of Colombia amidst a haze of glittering costumes and roaring vocals, call their style "tropical futurism." Jeremy Dutcher, the Polaris Prize-winning singer, composer and musicologist from Canada, who draws upon his First Nation heritage, talks about infusing his music with the philosophy of "indigenous futurism." And Gato Preto, a sleek German-based duo who mix a panoply of African styles — from Mozambique, Angola, Ghana, Senegal and beyond atop four-on-the-floor beats — call their music "Afrofuturist global bass." Clearly, the future is now.

One element of the 2019 edition of globalFEST went awry: The evening's planned closer, the venerable calypso king Mighty Sparrow had to cancel, due to illness.

On this episode of All Songs Considered, host Bob Boilen is joined by NPR Music's Anastasia Tsioulcas, WFMU's Rob Weisberg, host of the show "Transpacific Sound Paradise," and Beat Latino's Catalina Maria Johnson to talk about the most memorable moments and sounds from this year's globalFEST.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas
Anastasia Tsioulcas is a correspondent on NPR's Culture desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including the trial and conviction of former R&B superstar R. Kelly; backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; and gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards.
Bob Boilen
In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.