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History

2011 Festival

The Performers:

Baraka Moon (USA/Pakistan/UK)
Burkina Electric (Burkina Faso)
DePedro (Spain)
Felix y Los Gatos (New Mexico)
Frigg (Finland/Norway)
Gaida (Syria)
Los Amigos Invisibles (Venezuela)
Luísa Maita (Brazil)
Frank McCulloch y Sus Amigos (New Mexico)
Nawal (Comoros)
Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree)
Sergent Garcia (France)
Te Vaka (New Zealand/South Pacific)
Andrew Thomas (Diné)
Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole (Louisiana)
Yuri Yunakov Ensemble (Bulgaria)

Videos:

We have created a ¡Globalquerque! 2011 video channel and will be adding new videos as they become available.

 

Baraka Moon (USA/Pakistan/UK)

pic"Baraka" is the Sufi word for "blessing." Baraka Moon, founded on the night of an eclipse of the Full Moon in 2008, is a trio featuring virtuoso musicians from 3 distinct cultures and parts of the world—the USA, Pakistan and Great Britain—playing original music with roots based in Qawaali Sufi Trance Songs, Indian, Middle Eastern and African drums and percussion and the Australian Aboriginal Didgeridoo, all mixed together in one gloriously expressive and positive whole that transcends boundaries and unites us all in our common humanity.

Stephen Kent is a Master performer on the Australian Aboriginal Didjeridu who has collaborated with a number of globally renowned musicians, including Airto Moreira (Brazil), Zakir Hussain (India), Habib Koite (Mali), Omar Sosa (Cuba) and Steve Roach (USA). He has pioneered its use in contemporary music across the globe, helping to redefine the sound of one of the world's most ancient instruments. Geoffrey Gordon (Drums/Percussion) has worked on Broadway and internationally, and he recorded and toured for more than a dozen years with Jai Uttal in the Pagan Love Orchestra. Gordon has worked on several Coen Brothers movie soundtracks with composer Carter Burwell. He's also toured and worked internationally with Ram Dass at public talks and retreats as well as on recordings and the film "Fierce Grace." Sukhawat Ali Khan (Vocals/Harmonium) represents the family lineage of the 600-year-old Sham Chorasi traditional school of music. His training in both classical raga and Sufi Qawwali singing began at the age of 7 under his father, legendary Pakistani/Indian vocalist Ustad Salamat Ali Khan. Sukhawat's unique ability to draw from traditional and contemporary musical forms has helped him develop cross-cultural collaborations.

Watch a video:
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Burkina Electric (Burkina Faso)

photoHailed by the New York Times as an "irresistible brew of West African music and electronica," Burkina Electric is the first electronic music group from Burkina Faso, in the deep interior of West Africa. Based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso's capital, it is, at the same time, an international band, with members living in New York, U.S.A. and Düsseldorf, Germany, as well as in Ouaga. Burkina Electric's music combines the traditions and rhythms of Burkina Faso with contemporary electronic dance culture, making it a trailblazer in electronic world music. A diverse and talented group consisting of four musicians and two dancers, they collectively participate in the creative process and represent disparate musical genres and sounds from across the globe.

Rather than recycling well-known rock and funk rhythms, Burkina Electric seeks to enrich the fabric of electronic dance music by using unusual rhythms that are rarely heard and little-known even in much of Africa. This includes ancient rhythms of the Sahel, such as the Mossi peoples' Ouaraba and Ouenega, but also new grooves of their own creation. The band invites you to discover that these exotic rhythms groove at least as powerfully as disco, house, or drum & bass!

Watch a video:
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DePedro (Spain)

picDePedro—a name chosen because it sounded "kind of Mediterranean, kind of Spanish"—is the musical project of singer and guitarist Jairo Zavala. His first solo project, DePedro is the culmination of years of writing and playing songs for others, including Spanish star Amparanoia, Spanish instrumental surf phenoms Los Coronas and as the touring guitarist for Calexico, not to mention as frontman and founder of Vacazul and 3000 Hombres, both renowned bands in the respective Spanish rock and blues scenes. As DePedro, he has also appeared at SXSW, the WOMAD festival, at the nationally-broadcast Spanish Music Awards, and at various other festivals across the country.

Zavala grew up in Madrid listening to both the pre-WWII songs his grandparents used to play and the music his Peruvian father brought back from his travels to Latin America and Africa, as well the rock from the 70s and 80s that was popular in Spain. He credits these various influences for helping to shape his own style of guitar playing, one that pulled from blues, folk, flamenco, Afrobeat, Latin, and rock.

Though he enjoyed working with other artists, he was always writing his own music, as well. Some of the songs that ended up on his solo debut, titled DePedro, have their origins in the beginning of the decade. One of them, "Don't Leave Me Now"—originally written for and performed by Amparanoia—was heard by the Arizona band Calexico. They added it to their live set list, and got in touch, asking Zavala to play it with them when they were touring Spain. In 2004 he joined them as a full-time touring guitarist, and when Jairo was getting ready to begin his new album, the band invited him to their studio in Tucson to record. In late 2007, Jairo left for Arizona with the melody and guitar parts for what would become DePedro in hand, purposefully leaving space for the other musicians to fill and shape. The result is a personable, vibrant album that celebrates Zavala's many influences and inspirations while retaining a warmth and a center that engages and entertains.

DePedro's visit is sponsored by
cervantes

Watch a video:
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Felix y Los Gatos (New Mexico)

picFelix Y Los Gatos is one of the best party bands in New Mexico, playing a variety of music from the south and southwest. Felix Peralta was born in Albuquerque and raised in the South Valley, surrounded by agricultural lands, the often flooding Bosque and shifting red sandbars of the Rio Grande. Music found him early in life. "My grandpa Adan played button accordion and my uncle played guitar. There was always music around, lots of rancheras," a genre of traditional Mexican music originally sung during the Mexican Revolution. "I grew up listening, practicing and being fearless to just get up and do it. I did those three things constantly for many years." Felix and keyboard player Dave Barclay, a Santa Fe high school graduate, write and create all of their own music. Influences range from Django Reinhardt, Albert King, Roy Buchanan, Wayne Hancock, Flaco Jimenez, old school country, 30s and 40s jazz, 80s pop and world music.

"My music goes back to Django all the time," says Peralta. "I like the way gypsies did their thing and then left on a whim, partied down and played another gig after that."

Watch a video:
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Frigg (Finland/Norway)

photoKaustinen, a cluster of villages on the slow-winding River Perho in the western Finnish region of Ostrobothnia, has long been famous for its fiddlers. But, largely as a result of the innovative influence and success of Kaustinen band JPP (the acronym derives from "Järvelän Pikkupelimannit") and the teaching by that band's Mauno Järvelä of all the kids in the area who want to learn, the standard of playing, tune writing and arranging has increased even further, and rapidly, over the past few years.

The band Frigg is at the crest of this new wave, full of fresh ideas and taking the next leap forward for Finnish fiddle music.

In Ostrobothnia it's common for a surname to be the same as the family's address; the Järveläs come from the village of Järvelä, the scatter of farmhouses a bow-throw up river from Kaustinen. In Frigg are three members of the family's fourth generation of famous fiddlers: Mauno's daughter Alina, son Esko and nephew Antti. Their grandfather Johannes Järvelä and great-grandfather Antti Järvelä were both legendary master players.

You won't find the family names of the four other band members on the gravestones outside Kaustinen's big yellow and white wooden church, though. Two are from other parts of Finland, and the name Frigg (the Norse goddess of love and fertility) reflects the fact that in this band Finnish fiddling meets Norwegian. Playing both ordinary and Hardanger fiddle are brothers Gjermund and Einar Olav Larsen, from Verdal in the central Norwegian region of Trøndelag. They have played as a duo since childhood, three times winning the group category at Norway's national traditional music competition, the Landskappleik, in which in 2002 at the age of twenty-one Gjermund became the youngest ever winner of the solo fiddle category; he won it again in 2005.

With their galvanic live shows, the band have been catching ears on both sides of the Atlantic. For example, an appearance on Garrison Keillor's famous radio show "A Prairie Home Companion" had the studio audience baying for an encore. That's the way it's turning out wherever they play.

Watch a video:
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Gaida (Syria)

photoVocalist Gaida is known for her original and highly personal style marked by great emotional intensity. The "Syrian Nightingale" evokes the emotional storminess of legendary singers like Warda and Om Kalthoum, but her remarkable abilities to improvise and expand on traditional Arabic maqams suggest all new exotic possibilities.

Gaida exposes her innermost emotions using her powerful yet refined and expressive voice. Each song is at its core about love, longing and caring. In Gaida's own words, "I will always sing with tears close to my eyes, beats pounding my fragile heart, and care wrapping the world."

The wide range of musical styles heard within Gaida's music reflects the diversity of her background. One song may capture the vocal finesse and tenderness of Fairuz, or highly ornate vocal stylings reminiscent of Oum Kalthoum, contrasted by a slow, sultry blues number, followed by a Brazilian, samba-like piece. These various styles flow together organically and naturally, tied together by Gaida's depth of soul and her evocative and expressive voice, which transcends genre and drives directly into the listener's heart.

Watch a video:
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La Excelencia (New York)

picLa Excelencia is the new generation of salsa dura, bringing a modern vitality and social consciousness to the genre. These revolutionary salsa ambassadors take their bold new sounds to dancers and hardcore salsa fans worldwide, breaking the mold while remembering their roots. Their music is full of powerful arrangements of free-flowing horns and lively percussion. The hard life of the barrio is reflected in La Excelencia's music through their hardcore salsa sounds known as "salsa dura."

La Excelencia is a 11-piece salsa orchestra that was started in 2005 by Julian Silva and Jose Vazquez-Cofresi. In 2006 La Excelencia released their first album Salsa Con Conciencia, described by the New York Times as, "The real deal doesn't show up that often, and here it is. Celebrate it." The demand for another album was realized in 2009 with the release of Mi Tumbao Social, claimed by world salsa critics and disc-jockeys as the Best Salsa CD of 2009. "Salsa Dura" off of Mi Tumbao Social became a overnight sensation and the official video has gotten lots of attention, being aired all over the world on major television networks.

With the demand for La Excelencia and their salsa dura sound, the orchestra has built a strong international fan base and created a new movement in their genre. La Excelencia's concerts are full of energy and won't let you down. They draw you in and take you on a musical journey and by the end of the performance they leave you wanting more. It's not unusual to hear the crowd chanting, "Encore, Encore!" or "Otra, Otra!" in Spanish. The performance is teamwork, with every member of the orchestra having their moment to shine. They know how to captivate and work the crowd and give you a show like no other. But even after all the fame La Excelencia has built for themselves, they continue to be humble, and down to earth. You can't help but love La Excelencia and become a fan of their salsa dura sound.

Watch a video:
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Los Amigos Invisibles (Venezuela)

photoSince their first album in 1995, Los Amigos Invisibles have developed a sound based on the "gozadera"—an irresistible fusion of Latin rhythms with fiery funk and lounge music. The band got their first break when David Byrne (Talking Heads) discovered one of their albums by chance in a Manhattan record shop. He immediately called the band up in their native Venezuela and soon after, signed them to his label: Luaka Bop. Byrne opened doors for the band across the globe and Los Amigos Invisibles soon became an international touring machine.

Los Amigos Invisibles moved to New York City from their hometown of Caracas in 2001 and entrenched themselves in the local scene. With their electrifying live show, the group began building a considerable fan-base across the U.S. collaborating with artists such as Louie Vega (Masters At Work), Dimitri From Paris, Natalia Lafourcade, Cachorro López and Jorge Gonzalez, among others. Los Amigos Invisibles were able to establish themselves in the international dance music scene and expand their sound, while raking in Grammy nominations year after year and performing all over the globe. In the last few years, they have established their own record label—Gozadera Records—and have tightened their hooks and focused their songs, recording their most accessible work yet.

Los Amigos Invisibles have toured in over 60 countries. Their latest release, Commercial, was awarded a Latin Grammy for Best Alternative Album, the band's fifth career Grammy nomination. They have recorded six studio albums, one live DVD/CD, have set up a record label and have been in the music business for eighteen years with high hopes to continue doing what they love for years to come.

Watch a video:
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Luísa Maita (Brazil)

photoSultry, seductive and infused with that inimitable samba swing, the music of Luísa Maita embodies the modern spirit of Brazil. Inspired by the bustling urban life found in her native city of São Paulo, Lero-Lero has a contemporary vibe with influences from alternative pop and downtempo electronic music melded with an acoustic foundation deeply rooted in samba, bossa nova and MPB. Fans of Bebel Gilberto, Céu and Seu Jorge will find much to love in Luísa Maita's tropical, forward-looking sound, and her sensual yet soulful voice begs comparisons with everyone from Billie Holiday and Sade to Feist, St. Vincent and Cat Power. Hailing from a country overflowing with musical talent, Luísa Maita rises above the fray as one of the most promising young singers of her generation.

Luísa Maita, a native of the Brazilian mega-city São Paulo, has been surrounded by music since birth. Her father, Amado Maita, a singer whose one debut solo album from the 1970s is a coveted vinyl collector's item, named all three of his daughters after songs by bossa nova legend Antonio Carlos Jobim. She spent her early childhood in Bexiga, a diverse, working class neighborhood that was home to Italian and Arab immigrants (Luísa is of European, Jewish, and Syrian Muslim heritage) and migrants from Brazil's northeast. Famous for its personality, culture, food and music, Bexiga is where Vai-Vai, São Paulo's most traditional samba school, is based.

Luísa started singing her father's songs and bossa nova standards at a very young age, and began recording advertising jingles professionally at the age of seven. As a teenager, Luísa started singing with guitarist Morris Piccioto (aka Dr. Morris) and eventually they formed the group Urbanda, which released an album in 2003. Eventually, Luísa left the band to seek her own, personal musical direction.

Inspired by samba, bossa nova and other classic Brazilian styles, Luísa is also heavily influenced by the cool jazz of Billie Holiday and Chet Baker, as well as pop, funk and downtempo electronic music. Her first album as a solo artist, Lero-Lero, offers songs that encourage her fellow Brazilians to recognize the beauty and deeper meaning of their lives. "Its inspiration comes from the urban life of São Paulo, its ghettos and its people," notes Luísa, "The lyrics and the aura of the album focus on the peculiarities of Brazilian daily life, culture and human condition."

Watch a video:
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Frank McCulloch y Sus Amigos (New Mexico)

photoFrank McCulloch y Sus Amigos (Frank McCulloch and Friends) have been playing together for the past 12 years or so. Mostly Mexican or New Mexican in origin, their music is comprised of songs that many of us in the southwest grew up listening to or singing, as well as several originals written by Frank in Spanish. The group consists of Frank McCulloch (vocals and guitar), Melody Mock (violin), and Luis Campos (guitar). They have been part of the annual "Nuestra Musica" performance at the Lensic Theatre in Santa Fe a number of times, and in addition to their regular Sunday brunch gig at Java Joe's Coffee Shop in downtown Albuquerque, are often seen around the area playing at museums, art receptions, local festivals, the Old Town Gazebo, and other events.

Frank McCulloch (senior) is a native New Mexican born in Gallup of mixed heritage, including Irish and Hispanic roots. His father ran Harvey House Hotels in Gallup and in Las Vegas, New Mexico. Frank grew up hearing the folk music of the region and Mexico, and began playing music in the 1950s. He has recorded many songs for the J.D. Robb collection of New Mexico folk songs. Frank taught high school art for 30 years, and is a well-known landscape painter. He recently celebrated his 81st birthday.

Luis Campos is often seen around town playing flamenco music either solo or with flamenco groups. He studied guitar in Spain and has a degree in guitar performance from the University of New Mexico. He has produced several CDs of compositions, both original and traditional.

Melody Mock grew up in a musical family close to the Mexican border. She remembers spending many hours in guitar shops in Mexico where her parents bought instruments for their music school. She started playing violin at the age of three, and toured North American and Europe with her family playing classical guitar in a five-member group up until the age of 13. She began playing music again when invited to join Frank at Java Joe's one Sunday.

Listen to an audio interview with Frank:

Frank appears in the 2010 documentary for KNME, "The Musical Adventures of John Donald Robb in New Mexico." This is a fantastic introduction to the traditional music of New Mexico that features many previous ¡Globalquerque! performers. Watch it below, or view outtakes and listen to clips at KNME.org.

Watch videos:
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Nawal (Comoros)

photoNawal lives in France and, today, is recognized as being a key figure in her native island of Comoros, who, clearly, has found her voice: the star of the Comoros is at her peak. Between tradition and modernity, her resolutely acoustic and mystical music weaves a harmonious dialogue between Indo-Arabo-Persian cultures, Bantu polyphony, Sufi singing and the syncopated rhythms of the Indian Ocean. (The Comoros is an archipelago island nation in the Indian Ocean, located off the eastern coast of Africa, on the northern end of the Mozambique Channel.)

Nawal sees herself as a woman with a joint cultural identity. She writes her own lyrics and music, sings and plays the quanbus, an emblematic instrument of the island originally from Yemen. She has been performing all over the world for more than 20 years.

The New York Times' Jon Pareles called her 2007 album Aman (Peace of the Soul) "[one] of the most notable world music CDs released over the last year... Nawal sets her gritty voice to sparse, staccato patterns of upright bass, thumb piano and the banjolike gambusi... her music is a personal fusion that draws on the repetitive power of Sufi chants, along with modal acoustic vamps that can sound both African and Arabic. Her songs are lean and incantatory, and... more often, she can be hypnotic."

Watch a video:
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Buffy Sainte-Marie (Cree)

photoBuffy Sainte-Marie was a graduating college senior in 1962 and hit the ground running in the early Sixties, after the beatniks and before the hippies. All alone she toured North America's colleges, reservations and concert halls, meeting both huge acclaim and huge misperception from audiences and record companies who expected Pocahontas in fringes, and instead were both entertained and educated with their initial dose of Native American reality in the first person.

By age 24, Buffy Sainte-Marie had appeared all over Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia, receiving honors, medals and awards, which continue to this day. Her song "Until It's Time for You to Go" was recorded by Elvis, Barbara Steisand and Cher, and her "Universal Soldier" became the anthem of the peace movement. For her very first album she was voted Billboard's Best New Artist.

She disappeared suddenly from the mainstream American airwaves during the Lyndon Johnson years. Unknown to her, as part of a blacklist which affected Eartha Kitt, Taj Mahal and a host of other outspoken performers, her name was included on White House stationery as among those whose music "deserved to be suppressed," and radio airplay disappeared. Invited onto television talk shows on the basis of her success with "Until It's Time for You to Go," she was told that Native issues and the peace movement had become unfashionable and to limit her comments to celebrity chat. The next presidential administration, that of Richard Nixon, also came down hard on her, as this was the time of Wounded Knee.

In Indian country and abroad, however, her fame only grew. Denied an adult television audience in the U.S., in 1975 she joined the cast of "Sesame Street" for five years. She continued to appear at countless grassroots concerts, AIM (American Indian Movement) events and other activist benefits in Canada and the U.S. She made 18 albums of her music, three of her own television specials, scored movies, garnered international acclaim, helped to found Canada's Music of Aboriginal Canada JUNO category, raised a son, earned a Ph.D. in Fine Arts, taught Digital Music as adjunct professor at several colleges, and won an Academy Award Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for the song "Up Where We Belong."

Watch a video:
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Sergent Garcia (France)

picSergent Garcia burst onto the French music scene in the late 1990s with a searing blend of Jamaican reggae and dancehall with Latin grooves that he dubbed "salsamuffin." A veteran of French punk and indie rock, Sergent Garcia has explored his Spanish roots and passion for Caribbean and Latin music to create a popular sound that earned him fans across the globe and sales of hundreds of thousands of albums.

Bruno Garcia, alias Sergent Garcia, is the son of a Basque Spanish father and a French mother, and has family connections to Algeria and the Ivory Coast. Bruno's early years took him to live in Bilbao, Spain before his family settled in Paris when he was five years old. In his teenage years, he listened to Bob Marley, Joe Strummer, Bob Dylan, the Clash, the Ramones, and gravitated toward bands that blended punk, reggae and ska. His stage name was inspired by a character from the Zorro television series that was popular when Bruno was a child. The fat, awkward and drunken Sergent Garcia was Zorro's bumbling nemesis, and Bruno was often taunted with this nickname in the schoolyard. But Bruno started to like the idea of taking on the name of the anti-hero. "If everyone wants to be Zorro," explains Bruno, "I will be Sergent Garcia. I think he's the real man of the people, not Zorro. Zorro is just an aristocratic landlord."

As he began making the transformation into Sergent Garcia, Bruno started investigating other Latin music styles, from Colombian cumbia to Puerto Rican bomba and plena, and the fundamentals of Cuban music. His new album, Una y Otra Vez (Time and Time Again), solidifies his legacy and explores exciting new directions with guests from Colombia's scorching electrotropical music scene.

Watch a video:
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Te Vaka (New Zealand/South Pacific)

photoTe Vaka is a unique group of ten musicians and dancers from Tokelau, Tuvalu, Samoa, Cook Islands, and New Zealand brought together under the inspired leadership of Opetaia Foa'i, one of New Zealand's finest songwriters. They have been wowing international audiences since 1997, presenting a rich, luscious mix of Polynesia's ancient culture to the modern world. The inspiration for Opetaia's music comes from his multi-cultural upbringing—half Tokelauan, half Tuvaluan, born in Samoa and bought up in a Tokelauan community in New Zealand. Opetaia's musical background spans both the traditional and the diverse influences of contemporary metropolitan culture. He has been described as "one of New Zealand's finest songwriters" (New Zealand Listener), and in 2005 won the Senior Pacific Artist award for his work in recognition of an outstanding contribution to the Pacific Arts of New Zealand.

"Their name, Te Vaka, translates as 'the canoe' in the language of Tokelau. It refers to the South Pacific voyaging origins of the New Zealand musical group... But after experiencing the way the high-energy musicians and dancers rocked Castle Theater to about a 10 on the rapture scale, the full-house audience could have come up with our own definition of what Te Vaka means: Adrenaline-powered, bare-midriffed, percussion-pulsed, infectiously happy, beautiful people bringing ancient traditions into the modern world... with a good beat you could dance to. The music left no alternative. You had to dance. Even the ushers, keepers of order in the exalted theater, were dancing."
Maui Scene

Te Vaka's appearance is made possible by funding from the Western State Arts Federation and the National Endowment of the Arts.

Watch a video:
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Andrew Thomas (Diné)

picAndrew Thomas is a contemporary Diné (Navajo Nation) flute player. He was born and raised in Rock Spring Chapter near Gallup, New Mexico. He is self-taught, and plays music composed from the heart. He has chosen the flute's voice to express his way of life, heritage and culture. He feels fortunate that his music has allowed him to travel widely, both nationally and internationally. He has performed all over the United States, including the Indian Summer Festival in Milwaukee, the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and over 10 years at the American Indian Powwow Gathering in Hawaii. He has performed in Mexico, Peru, South Korea, and throughout Europe, including Sweden where he had a story published in the book, They Call Us "Indians".

His first venture into recording has resulted in a CD titled Changing Woman's Blessings. More recently, he recorded in Perth, Australia, with a well-known Aboriginal actor and musician, Heath Bergersen. This cross-cultural collaboration has culminated in a CD mixing the sounds of the traditional Australian instrument, the didgeridoo, and the Native American flute titled Friends for Life.

Through his music and his life, he is an activist in preserving Native ways, creating awareness of the need for communication across cultures, and protecting all human rights. In this way, he strives to give back to the community. He most enjoys connecting with people of all cultures and sharing the musical language of the flute.

 

Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole (Louisiana)

photoCedric Watson, one of the brightest young talents to emerge in Cajun, Creole and Zydeco (Louisiana French) music over the last decade, is a four-time Grammy-nominated fiddler, singer, accordionist & songwriter. Originally from San Felipe, TX (population 868), Cedric made his first appearance at the age of 19 at the Zydeco Jam at The Big Easy in Houston. Just two years later, he moved to south Louisiana, quickly immersing himself in French music and language. Over the next several years, Cedric performed French music in 17 countries and on 7 full-length albums with various groups, including the Pine Leaf Boys, Corey Ledet, Les Amis Creole with Ed Poullard and J.B. Adams, and with his own group, Bijou Creole.

Cedric Watson & Bijou Creole resurrect the ancient sounds of the French and Spanish contra dance and bourré alongside the spiritual rhythms of the Congo tribes of West Africa, who were sold as slaves in the Carribean and Louisiana by the French and Spanish.

With an apparently bottomless repertoire of songs at his fingertips, Cedric plays everything from forgotten Creole melodies and obscure Dennis McGee reels to more modern Cajun and Zydeco songs, even occasionally throwing in a bluegrass fiddle tune or an old string band number. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he is also a prolific songwriter, writing almost all of his songs on his double row Hohner accordion. Cedric's songs channel his diverse ancestry (African, French, Native American and Spanish) to create his own brand of sounds.

Watch a video:
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Yuri Yunakov Ensemble (Bulgaria)

picDeveloped in the 1970s, Bulgarian wedding music is described by the University of Oregon's Carol Silverman as emphasizing "virtuosic technique, improvisation, fast speeds, daring key changes, and eclectic musical sources such as jazz, rock, Turkish, and Indian musics, as well as Balkan village folk music." A pioneer of this music, Yuri Yunakov is the leading Bulgarian Roma musician in the United States and largely responsible for creating the saxophone's role in this style. During communism, wedding music became an anti-government countercultural phenomenon that united Roma and Bulgarians. With this new contemporary fusion, Yunakov has raised the profile of Balkan music in the United States, playing for both Romani and non-Romani audiences alike.

Of Turkish Romani ancestry, Yunakov was born in 1958 in Haskovo, a city in the Thracian region of southeastern Bulgaria. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and three uncles were all violinists and his father was a popular clarinet player. At a young age, Yunakov learned the kaval (a shepherd's flute) followed by the davul (a traditional two-headed drum) which he used to accompany his father and older brothers at local weddings. In his teens, Yunakov also accompanied his father on the clarinet while training as a boxer. Following a time in the army in the mid-1970s, Yunakov returned to music and began playing the saxophone. In 1983, Ivan Milev discovered Yunakov and, after months of training, he began to play with Milev's group Mladost in 1984. He came to the notice of Ivo Papasov soon afterwards, going on to play in Papasov's band Trakija for nearly 10 years. Together with Trakija, Yunakov performed at hundreds of weddings in his native Bulgaria and toured extensively in Europe and North America. In 1989, Papasov's band performed for the first time in the United States, including a performance on David Sanborn's nationally broadcast TV program, "Night Music."

After consistent persecution by the Bulgarian socialist government for performing Romani music, Yunakov emigrated to the United States in 1994 and formed his own band, the Yunakov Ensemble. The band has toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad but continues to play at weddings and family gatherings in New York's tri-state Bulgarian, Turkish, Romani, and Macedonian communities. The Yunakov Ensemble has made four recordings for Traditional Crossroads: New Colors in Bulgarian Wedding Music, Balada, Roma Variations, and Together Again. The Yunakov Ensemble has toured extensively, including performing at UCLA's Royce Hall, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and New York's Symphony Space, as well as playing in Germany, Poland, Denmark, and Italy.

Watch a video:
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