Many may have heard the rhythmic sound of pounding drums working its way through campus on Thursday evening, but only a few dared to investigate the source.
Those who did discovered food trucks, dancers and, of course, drummers, all situated outside Kingsbury Hall during an exciting pre-show for the Creole carnival-inspired globalFEST. The group Samba Fogo performed in this preshow, and the lively beats and graceful movements from their dancers made for a great dinner-and-a-show to prepare for the main event happening inside, despite the rain that hit toward the end of their set.
By the time globalFEST began, the audience members were well-fed and excited, leading to an anticipatory atmosphere in Kingsbury Hall. Unsurprisingly, opening act “the reigning Queen of Haitian song,” Emeline Michel, did not disappoint. Her music, a mix of Creole and English, was moving in a deeply personal and cultural style that marked it as radically different from the drums of the pre-show.
“We [Haitians] brace for the bad and savor the good,” Michel said in between sets.
She sang beautifully and smoothly, dancing a bit while a backup band displayed its own skill. Taking a moment to acknowledge members of the audience with significantly less experience with Haitian music than she did, Michel invited one of them with her on-stage. This audience member demonstrated a willingness to freestyle in a genre he seemed unfamiliar with and allowed the audience members to similarly free themselves of any discomfort and fully enjoy what the performers of globalFEST had to offer.
Next, Brushy One-String and his one-stringed guitar filled the room. One-String’s style drew from Jamaican reggae but certainly wasn’t limited to it, creating a sound both similar to and very different from that of the artist Bob Marley. His ability to create this diversity of pitches and melodies with only one string is in itself admirable, but he also could sing on top of that. It’s no wonder his YouTube video “Chicken in the Corn” has over nine million views.
Last, but certainly not least, came the five-member Brazilian Casuarina, who quickly endeared themselves to the audience with jokes and a willingness to be silly while still maintaining a professional attitude. The lead singer spoke of the importance of the holiday Carnival to Brazilians, especially to those living in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Those four days of Carnival, he said, are what he lives for.
Their energy wove throughout their music, reinvigorating an artist who had almost begun to feel tired.
Wrapping up the evening was a group number, a cover of Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” By the end of this piece, the audience had forgotten its fatigue. Everyone was standing, clapping, and many were dancing.
This one-evening performance certainly delivered a culturally rich and fun evening, despite the fact that Kingsbury Hall’s high ceilings and deep stage may not have been the best venue for it.
Hopefully this national tour of globalFEST will not be a one-time thing, and students at the U can enjoy it again in the years to come.