BU Global Music Festival Comes to Tsai Performance Center on Saturday
Musicians from Malawi, Iran, Ukraine, and more will perform, offer workshops
The BU Global Music Festival, now in its sixth year, offers members of the University community, and the general public, a chance to see the world from Comm Ave. The free event gives audiences a unique opportunity to hear music from places they’ve never been, sit in on workshops with the musicians, and even shop at a global bazaar.
The popular daylong festival returns this Saturday, September 16, at the Tsai Performance Center, featuring musicians from Ukraine via Canada, Malawi, San Salvador, Iran, Cape Verde, and New Orleans, starting at 1 pm. (In the event of rain, the event will be held at Tsai Performance Center, 685 Comm Ave.) Find a full schedule here.
“Some people have been going for years, some people are attending for the first time,” says Elana Harris (MET’23), assistant director of the BU Arts Initiative, the festival’s primary sponsor. “It’s one of the first major events of the school year that students can just pull up to, relax, and have a great time.”
This is Harris’ first year as assistant director of the fest; she’s the point of contact for all things contracts, scheduling, promotion, and communications. The heart and soul of the event continues to be Marié Abe, a former College of Fine Arts associate professor of music, musicology, and ethnomusicology, now an associate professor of ethnomusicology at the University of California, Berkeley. Though no longer at BU, Abe remains at the helm of curating the yearly lineup and will return to campus for this weekend’s program. “It’s sort of become my baby,” she says of the festival. “I feel like the word has finally gotten around in our sixth year, and I’d love for it to keep going as long as possible.”
The acts Abe looks for need to represent not only their countries of origin, but also an array of female, queer, and indigenous artists in order to break up what she calls “decades of a ‘world music’ industry that has mostly been dominated by male stars.”
And their sounds must be diverse, as well.
“I don’t want it to be just a traditionalist, folkloric acoustic sound,” she says. Global music “is not just untouched tradition; there are lots of artists that are doing super creative stuff—and towards the end of the day, we want some pumping party music.”
In years past, Abe has also made sure to include artists who represent countries that have been in the news, like Puerto Rico’s Orquesta El Macabeo, who played the fest in 2018 after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. This year is no exception, with Ukrainian and Iranian artists on the roster.
“It’s a way of offering an opportunity for students, faculty, and everybody to have a chance to understand who’s behind the headlines,” Abe says. “We always have workshops during the festival that are a way for the audience to ask [the artists] any questions they may have and get a chance to actually talk to them.”
Below is a preview of the six musical acts featured in the 2023 Global Music Festival, from Ukrainian EDM (electronic dance music) to New Orleans jazz funk and a range in between. Which one will be your favorite?