Every January for the past decade a dozen or more bands from around the world have gathered in New York City for globalFEST - one long, frenzied night of live music showcasing the diverse cultures, histories and numerous sonic branches of "World Music." This year's lineup included Zimbabwe legend Oliver Mtukudzi and his band The Black Spirits, Malian singer Fatoumata Diawara, Chicago's wildly exuberant marching band Mucca Pazza, and much, much more.
Martha Redbone's music chronicles the crossroads of the American experience. Born in Kentucky and of Cherokee, Choctaw and African-American descent, Redbone combines folk, Appalachian, soul and Native tradition in a group of settings of poetry by William Blake — a startling idea, perhaps, but one that brims with potency and freshness.
Based in Los Angeles and fronted by the smoky-voiced Marisol Hernandez, the fast-rising band La Santa Cecilia splices and dices an array of Mexican and South American sounds in its songs, from Mexican norteño and ranchera to Colombian cumbia. Here, its members perform smart originals and covers of U2's "One" and Soft Cell's "Tainted Love" — all with a wry, old-soul knowingness. La Santa Cecilia has already received a Latin Grammy nomination in 2011, but with this GlobalFEST appearance, it's poised to break out to a broader audience.
The night ended with bumping beats down at Webster Hall's Studio space with the Ottawa-based Native collective A Tribe Called Red. The group calls its style "pow wow step" — an imaginative and dance-floor-ready blend of beats, aboriginal singing and dancing, and visuals and audio samples that turn "Indian" stereotypes on their heads. But the most memorable moments in the set come when A Tribe Called Red invites a dancer out to perform a traditional hoop dance, twisting and turning hoops into elegant and beautiful figures.