Globalfest 2010 @ Webster Hall, 1/10/10
There’s no better way to lengthen the road of your mind or widen the prairies of your soul than by traveling, seeing the world, and melding with people unlike yourself. Yet many New Yorkers-myself included- are reinventing the ‘stay-cation’ since a glimpse of life far beyond the East River doesn’t come cheap. Fortunately, on January 10th, the world came to us when globalfest 2010 shook the Big Apple to its multi-ethnic core. The latest foray into world music included Celtic vocals, gypsy blues-rock, Zydeco, and the ever-popular jams of West Africa. Early in the night, Alif Naaba brought Burkina Faso to the intimate stage of The Studio @ Webster Hall. Strums of the ngoni and rips of the guitar drew steam from a slow-growing dance circle steeped in the call and response. This was a sign of great things to come.
Up above, the soul-wrenching croon of Namgar, whose name is shared by her Siberian/Buryat band, ambled gracefully onto the main stage of Webster Hall. The gold accents of Namgar’s brightly colored satin dress paled in comparison to her extravagant headpiece: a metallurgical feat that spread outward to either side, thin sheafs of long black hair wrapped around, and a center protrusion that rose phoenix-like from her head. Though too proud to outwardly appear “uncultured,” the New York crowd silently marveled, tickled pink that globalfest had once again delivered the goods. The 9-person band was no less impressive with its ecletic derivation: part-Russian, part-Tibetan, part-Mongolian, all-soul. The band opened with “Tunka,” a song that begins with the stereotypical twang-and-strum aesthetic that had me convinced that I had already seen this Bruce Lee movie. Yet as the calligraphic strokes of the chanza quivered alongside Namgar’s vocals, the dam broke and a cascade of heavy metal beats and edgy riffs flooded the venue. A nearby group of grease-scented headbangers threw out some expletives of approval and began breaking necks. I couldn’t help but agree. There’s nothing cooler than traditional Buryat shaman rock.
Cursed by tight set times and my inability to teleport, I missed a lot of notable performances: the electro jazz of Caravan Palace (France), the footloose Zydeco of Cedric Watson (USA), and the bolero-cumbia-electro downtempo of Federico Aubele (Argentina/USA). I did manage to salsa to La Excelencia, groove with Francois Ladrezo & Alka Omeka, and marvel at the possibilities of global solidarity displayed by Nguyen Le’s pan-Asian jazz trio Saiyuki; what a treat to hear the Japanese koto, the Indian tabla, and an electric guitar woven through a musical loom!
At the end of the night, the doors of Webster Hall unveiled a satiated crowd. We flowed into New York City’s streets nourished by transportive music that not only took us around the world but, more importantly, took us outside of ourselves. We danced and sang and left Globalfest 2010 with a full satchel for the road ahead.