This past Sunday, the annual globalFEST took place at Webster Hall in New York City. Established in 2003, globalFEST is a non-profit organization that serves the world music community. The annual showcase alongside the APAP conference (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) is known to be “one of the most catalytic world music events in North America.” Over the course of twelve years, gF has invited as many as 140 music collectives on stage across the continent. Its main purpose is to expand world music to a much larger audience, celebrating the “unmatched convergence of performing arts groups.”
In this year’s gF, twelve music groups performed on three stages: the Grand Ballroom, the Marlin Room, and the Studio. I had my eyes and ears set on the musical acts in the Grand Ballroom.
The Nile Project is comprised of musicians from eleven countries along the Nile River. Working in a collaborative format, this multi-lingual group is about to embark on a six month-long tour, globalFEST being just the very beginning of a long anticipated journey. As each artist from the group walks on stage, I instantly knew this would be a very interesting show. For someone who is not familiar with world music, I was intrigued by the different instruments on stage, some including the inanga (a trough-zither consisting of 8-16 strings), oud (lute), and masenqo (chordophone).
Since globalFEST gathers artists from around the world, the event is not entirely in English. I couldn’t make out what the performers of the Nile Project were singing, but I was aware that each song was either in a completely different language, or a cultural blend of words and phrases from all the languages along the river. Either way, their performance was engaging and heart-warming. The use of various types of instruments, like the ones mentioned earlier, help this music project channel the hidden beauty of East African traditions through resonant strings, harmonizing vocals and chants, and drumming packed with solid rhythms and beats.
The following is the Nile Project‘s set list from Sunday night’s gF: “Meskarem,” “Inganji” (one verse/poem), “Bi Wele Wele” (short solo), “Garib Ley,” “Mulange Madungu,” “Tenseo” (without intro), “Dil Ma7booby,” “Ya Abai Wuha,” and “Uruzi Nil.”
Next on stage was the exciting Afro-European vocal quintet, Zap Mama. Marie Daulne is the leader and founder of the a Capella group. The strikingly beautiful Daulne, along with her talented singers (three women and two men) melted the hearts of many, infusing Afro-pop, urban, jazz, alternative funk and soul music. Daulne is not only a gifted vocalist, but she is also a sonic stylist, telling stories through her music and creating vocal expressions on stage.
“Zapping” the crowd to a different place, the group definitely took me to a whole new world with their harmonies and beat-boxing. I found myself tapping my foot to the funky beat and scat singing. My favorite song is “African Sunset.” It is filled with tongue-and-teeth clattering vocals and percussion. This track definitely got the crowd bobbing their heads and kicking their feet. Daulne and her ladies surprised the audience with a dance routine comprised of sensual hip movements as they transitioned to an upbeat and exciting track.
Zap Mama’s songs, including “Get Away,” “Text,” “Big Boy,” and “African Sunset” were all unique in their own way. Most of the songs were accompanied by jazzy piano chords, infusing different genres as well as African and Euro-American traditions. Positive vibrations spread throughout the crowd as Zap Mama reached the end of their act. They will be back in New York City next month to perform at the Highline Ballroom.