At GlobalFest, a World of Music, Costumes and Messages | Modern Society of USA

At GlobalFest, a World of Music, Costumes and Messages

At GlobalFest, a World of Music, Costumes and Messages

They showed up in Mardi Gras headdresses, fedoras and tutus paired with combat boots. They drummed on darbukas, djembes and congas. And many of the performers at Sunday’s GlobalFest also brought grievances with them along with their costumes and instruments: against occupation, the erasure of indigenous voices, walls.

GlobalFest, which took over the Copacabana nightclub near Times Square for the first time this year, is an annual showcase of music from all corners of the earth. This year 12 acts performed overlapping sets on three stages in what proved a joyful and often raucous celebration of diversity and culture’s uncanny knack for slipping through borders and stretching out roots underneath walls.

As such, the festival is an inherent act of defiance against any attempt to cement hierarchies.

At the same time, it complicates the notion of identity politics by demonstrating the composite nature of style. While the musicians’ art was always fueled by tradition, their distinct sounds were almost invariably shaped by the clash — or serendipitous kiss — of difference.

Sometimes it was the fusion of geographically far-flung styles that yielded new musical alloys. Indian ragas took on a flirtatious shimmer in the hands of Debashish Bhattacharya, who infused them with strains of Flamenco and Hawaiian music and performed them on a new breed of Indian slide guitar of his own devising. The result was a heady mix of languid Polynesian sounds caffeinated by the rhythmic fireworks of the tabla of Subhasis Bhattacharya, Debashish’s brother.

The members of 47Soul are drawn from the Palestinian diaspora, but the group’s musical roots reach even wider, encompassing Middle Eastern dabke drumming, fuzzy synth beats and reggae to eminently danceable effect. Politics are never far from the surface in lyrics that speak of dispossession and in the label — “Shamstep” — the band has given its music, which voices dreams of Arab unity across the Levant.

In fact, new labels were often needed to capture new hybrids: “Southern Gothic.” “Freak cabaret.” “Afropsychedelic.”

“Afrofuturist global bass” is how the members of Gato Preto describe their combustible blend of rap, funk and Senegalese drumming. The band is fronted by the explosively charismatic Gata Misteriosa, from Mozambique, who teamed up with the Ghanaian-German producer Lee Bass and Moussa Diallo, an incandescent djembe master from Senegal. Their set had a steamy carnival energy, with the relentless drive of the machine-made pulse amplified by heart-quickening flurries of live drumming.

Pulses were also set racing by BCUC, a South African group that brings punk-rock energy and hypnotic rhythms to social activism, and by the Orquesta Akokán, a Cuban-American big band uniting dazzling talent and midcentury polish in simmering mambos.

A very different spell was cast by Amythyst Kiah — a self-described “Southern Gothic” singer of “alt-country blues” — who gave a standout performance in the evening’s only solo act. Her razor-sharp guitar picking alone guarantees her a place among blues masters, but it’s her deep-hued voice that can change on a dime from brushed steel to melted toffee that commands attention.

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