Aleppian wasla music and whirling dervish dance from Syria
New York, New York
The Aleppo Ensemble is a New York-based group devoted to performing and preserving the rich heritage of wasla music, song, poetry, and dance from Aleppo. The group’s mission has been made all the more urgent in recent years with the physical and cultural destruction of Aleppo, long the cultural capital of Syria where Muslim, Christian, and Jewish traditions came together. Through their work, they strive to reach Syrian refugees as well as Syrian Americans whose history in the U.S. goes back over a hundred years, two groups that share the fear that they are witnessing the destruction of their homeland. The Aleppo Ensemble’s music and story is a timely reminder that cultural traditions are often deeply held across time and place, often in spite of historic humanitarian crises.
Boston, Massachusetts, and New York, New York
Two masters of the West African balafon, Balla Kouyaté from Mali and Famoro Dioubaté from Guinea, have joined forces to showcase their approaches, both deeply traditional and yet modern and inventive, to this ancient instrument. Each performance from Kouyaté and Dioubaté is a treat for audiences and artists alike, full of the thrill of the unexpected, as these two artists at the peak of their powers explore new musical terrain together.
BeauSoleil is rightly called “the best Cajun band in the world.” The band reflects the vision of Michael Doucet, who has spent much of his life delving into the origins of Cajun music. Michael once said, “If I was going to play Cajun music, I wanted to play it right. And if I was going to change Cajun music, I had to be sure of the direction.” For nearly half a century, BeauSoleil has built a foundation deeply rooted in tradition while pushing the limits of the genre.
Tuareg guitar has exploded across the international cultural landscape in the less than two decades since the pyrotechnics of these guitar slingers, often veterans from the front lines of the Tuareg's intermittent uprisings, first captured the imagination of music fans worldwide. Proclaimed variously as “the Sultan of Shred” (New York Times), the “World’s Best Guitarist” (Noisey), and “utterly, utterly fantastic” (BBC World Service), the Niger-born guitarist Bombino is arguably the leading exponent of this rhythmic, trance-like, and sonically captivating sound.
steel pan orchestra
New York, New York
CASYM is a thunderous orchestra consisting entirely of steel pans—percussion instruments fashioned from 55-gallon oil drums and played with rubber-tipped mallets. The virtuosity of its members and the versatility of its repertoire demonstrates this instrument’s incredible range. Annual participants in the New York Caribbean Carnival, CASYM is not just a musical group but also an organization that uses music to inspire youth of Caribbean heritage to imagine a brighter future.
New York, New York
Cuban musicians draw from a sonic landscape rich with varied influences, including folk and popular, religious and secular, and Spanish and African-derived sounds. New York City’s Conjunto Guantanamo weaves these diverse threads together. Mingling traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms, like son montuno, cha-cha-cha, mambo, and rumba, with the energy of New York City’s Latin music scene, Conjunto Guantanamo celebrates Cuban folklore as the spirit breathing life into its sound.
honky-tonk and country
From the heart of Texas comes Dale Watson, a true son of the American musical outlaw tradition and the reigning “king” of uncompromising, deep country—a real honky-tonk hero who lives the life and writes songs about it. Dale proves night after night in big clubs and smoky honky-tonks that he is a true keeper of the country music flame. With his uncompromising approach, this troubadour creates new music in a defiantly American honky-tonk and country roots style, and his soulful songs, delivered with his signature baritone vocals, have a timeless quality that appeals to purists and neophytes alike.
Republic of Tuva (Russian Federation)
One of the world’s oldest and most striking vocal traditions is xöömei (throat-singing), from the Republic of Tuva in Central Asia. Nothing in western vocal music resembles this ethereal and beautiful sound. Largely unknown beyond Tuva until the 1990s, Tuvan throat-singing expanded western conceptions of the capacities of the human voice, and quickly became a international sensation. The four-member ensemble Huun-Huur-Tu played a central role in bringing this tradition out of Asia and to stages worldwide.
Described by BBC Music as “full of surging seaside rhythms and yearning, soulful melodies that hang in the memory,” the music of the Garifuna Collective is both undeniably danceable and profound. Their music reflects the history of the Garifuna people, a culturally threatened African Amerindian ethnic minority living primarily along the Caribbean coasts of Belize, Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. It speaks to universal human emotions through the unique valence of their resilient community and the story of their prolonged and forced migration from Africa to the shores of present-day Central America.
Georgian polyphonic singing
Cultural life in the country of Georgia revolves around an epic meal known as a supra. Food and wine flow all night, and between every course a traditional song is sung: work songs, carols, hymns, love songs, and historical ballads. The Georgian male choir Iberi showcases the wide range of Georgian music with complex harmonies that are at once eerie, hypnotic, and beautiful. In the hands of this sublime ensemble, this once-threatened Georgian tradition not only seems secure; it seems bound to ascend toward a brighter future.