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Our Top Discoveries At globalFEST 2016

On Sunday, Jan. 17, globalFEST, one of America's premiere showcases of musical talent from around the world, once again took over the three stages at Manhattan's Webster Hall. The one-evening festival has few American rivals in the way it simultaneously expands and condenses musical perspectives. The performances here move naturally between those that are heady and thought-provoking and those that are rhythmically sumptuous and sweat-inducing. Sometimes the shift from, say, Eastern European folk theater to Afro-Caribbean party music to Parisian electro-swing to Bhangra drums creates deep, wonderful contexts about the world we live in; at others, it is jarring. Which is what makes the whole thing such a hoot.

To discuss the evening's performances and insights, All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen is joined by NPR Music's Piotr Orlov, NPR contributor and senior editor Banning Eyre and Rob Weisberg of WQXR (who also hosts WFMU's Transpacific Sound Paradise). In this week's podcast, above, they revisit some of the highlights and favorite discoveries from this year's globalFEST.

You can also listen to some spotlight performances from Webster Hall, featured below.

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Our Top Discoveries At globalFEST 2016

Music Maker Blues Revue feat. Robert Lee Coleman

"Country Women"

An essential part of the Hillsborough, N.C.-based non-profit, Music Maker Relief Foundation, which assists lesser known aging artists who made huge contributions to American musical traditions and have fallen on hard times, Music Maker Blues Revue is a rotating cast of soul and blues ringers. Robert Lee Coleman was long-time guitarist for Percy Sledge and a one-time member of the JB's. --Piotr Orlov


"Ankara Sundays"

Somi grew up the American Midwest as the child of East African parents, and her maverick career as a vocalist and composer can be seen as a quest to resolve her own complex identity. A superb jazz singer, Somi has lived in various parts of Africa and creates an elegant and highly individualized amalgam of the musics she has loved and the bi-continental experiences that have shaped her life. --Banning Eyre



Led by the dancer Melaku Belay, Ethiopia's Fendika is a small music+dance group performing traditional Azmari music, most often at the Addis Ababa club/house of culture where Belay is also an artistic director. The amplified instrumentation featuring the krar (a five- and six-string lute) and the muted kebero drums creates a raw modern, rocked-up sound from time-honored roots. --Piotr Orlov

Astrid Hadad

"El Ombligo De La Luna (The Moon Belly Button)"

A star in Mexico, Astrid Hadad is a product of Mexico City's lively cabaret scene. Since breaking through in a 1985 production called Donna Giovanni, an all-female adaptation of Mozart's opera, she became famous for her own satirical musical-theater shows spoofing Mexican and global culture high and low, She's known for her extravagant and bizarre costumes, but also uses satire to make cutting socio-political points. --Rob Weisberg

Mariana Sadovska


Mariana Sadovska is a charismatic and adventurous musical and theatrical performer. She began her career in avant garde theater, but also traveled across Ukraine, her home country, to learn songs from village women. She combines these influences and uses an array of traditional and non-traditional vocal techniques to create some of the most distinctive interpretations of traditional song you'll hear anywhere. --Rob Weisberg

Stelios Petrakis Quartet

"Pare Me Nyhta"

Stelios Petrakis, virtuosic lyra (fiddle) player and composer from Crete is a leading figure in the lively Greek roots music scene who also branches out through cross-cultural collaborations with musicians from around the world. He formed the Cretan music quartet to spotlight both the traditional songs and dances of his home island as well as his own compositions inspired by tradition. --Rob Weisberg

Simon Shaheen

"Sidi Mansour (My Grandpa Mansour)"

Simon Shaheen may be the greatest musical ambassador from the wide world of Arabic music to the U.S. His new ensemble Zafir combines Middle Eastern and North African art music with flamenco and original compositions rich with spontaneity and improvisation. --Banning Eyre

Lakou Mizik

"Bon Tan (Good Times)"

Lakou Mizik is a multi-generational big-band from the Haitian capital of Port-Au-Prince, created in the wake of the devastating 2010 earthquake in order to uphold the island's social roots music. The sound of Vodou drummers, Rara horns and an accordionist blend into a soulful and party-oriented rasin experience, an Afro-Soca Carnival vibe of the highest order. --Piotr Orlov

Piotr Orlov
Bob Boilen
In 1988, a determined Bob Boilen started showing up on NPR's doorstep every day, looking for a way to contribute his skills in music and broadcasting to the network. His persistence paid off, and within a few weeks he was hired, on a temporary basis, to work for All Things Considered. Less than a year later, Boilen was directing the show and continued to do so for the next 18 years.