Global Fest - Webster Hall - 1/13
Many times last night I noticed similar juxtapositions between featured acts. Stephane Wrembrel, whose artful allusions to Django Reinhardt's sound have graced more than one Woody Allen film, opened for the LA-based Latin band La Santa Cecilia, which is fronted by a zaftig, bilingual mama equally happy singing boleros or Janis Joplin. Like Wembrel, La Santa Cecilia is also attracted to gypsy guitar, but by the passionate sincerity of flamenco improvisation, not the insouciant irony of jazz manouche. Hot vs. Cool. Cerebral vs. Soulful. Equally entertaining, just different.
I'm sorry to report that Spanish flamenco star La Shica gave a magnificent show to a less than appreciative room. She is the whole package: a skilled gestural dancer and singer of bulerias and soleares, able to recreate atmosphere of timeless flamenco cafes. Most of the tired and perhaps jaded conventioneers left before she had finished. And while I was glad to see Global Fest less crowded than during previous years, it might be prudent to get more civilian customers in the door next time. They might be less rude to the talent.
Which of the night's showcases impressed me the most? I'd have to say it was a tie between the two Native American performers: the Canadian deejay crew A Tribe Called Red, and the Kentucky-born alt-bluegrass singer Martha Redbone. Both have found fresh ways of asserting and defending an aboriginal identity using mainstream musical forms. Redbone is a singer/songwriter with black, red, and Appalacian roots. Her core instrumentation reflects all three: drum and rattle, banjo, fiddle. She has put music to the poetry of William Blake, and some lines excerpted from the Navajo Blessing Way. She reminds me of the Carolina Chocolate Drops, only I think i like her songs better. Standout live moment? Funk-a-billy versions of "This Train" and "Drum".
Ottawa-bred A Tribe Called Red are aboriginal children of the digital age who have serious turntable and MIDI skills. They are funny too. Check out the whitewashed Cleveland Indians sweatshirt adapted to read "Caucasians" under a Howdy Doody version of Chief Wahoo. Last night they not only proved they can rock almost every style of contemporary EDM, they made sure their original beat tracks included sonically enhanced loops of authentic Indian dance or ceremonial music. They also made wonderfully atmospheric used of an iconic Rihanna sample. And why not? The West Indian/Indian connection goes all the way back to Arawaks and Caribs and their black descendants, which today comprise the Garifuna people.
Female members of the crew provided live pow-wow vocals and ultimately performed an unexpectedly dynamic hoop dance in which the last Earth Mother figure of Global Fest juggled eight full sized hoops to form huge wings and a halo around her whirling form as the thunderous dance track faded to equally thunderous applause.