The words “World Music,” when used as an all-encapsulating genre of music can often be tricky and misleading. How can so many unique sounds from all over the globe be compartmentalized into one simplified phrase? It doesn’t make sense, and that’s where the “World Music” festival comes in—the showcase of many of these sounds in one place. Take a number of bands whose musical roots lie deep in the nations wherein they reside, put them in the same city for a few days, and you’ll experience something like Cedar Rapids’ Landfall Festival of World Music. The festival celebrates its fifth year this month and features a lineup of headliners from over nine countries. The four day event takes place at a number of different venues in Cedar Rapids including CSPS Hall and Greene Square Park. Festival passes will be available, but there are also ways to experience the world class “World Music” for free and on the cheap. We’ll get into that later. Let’s look at this year’s highlights.
In Portugal, folk quartet Deolinda are also exploring the boundaries of a genre. Much of Portuguese folk is rooted in the fado style of music. Fado is generally associated with a subject matter relating to poverty, loss, mourning or anything gloomy. The association is loose though, and the genre has been stretched and redefined over the course of the past 200 years. Deolinda puts a refreshingly positive spin on the common perception of fado. For instance, it is traditional for fado players to perform in all black; Deolinda does not. Lead singer Ana Bacalhau sings (in Portuguese), “I am the butterfly, beautiful and graceful / Painting the world the color pink.” You get the idea. Bacalhau is joined onstage by her husband and two cousins and their close relationships shine in their musical chemistry. Their 2010 album, Dois Selos e Um Carimbo reached No. 1 on the Portuguese charts and put Deolinda on the map.
Swedish band Movits! will bring their unique blend of swing and hip hop to the festival on Thursday night at CSPS Hall. Movits! gained considerable popularity in the United States after an especially energetic performance on The Colbert Report—enough for Comedy Central Records to release their album in the United States. JPP, a seven-piece fiddle group hailing from Finland will take the stage on Thursday as well with their original compositions as well as traditional Finnish favorites.
Friday at CSPS brings Mexico City-born singer Rana Santacruz. Formerly a member of short-lived rock band La Catrina, Santacruz has turned his efforts toward his interest in traditional forms. He incorporates instrumentation characteristic of Mexican mariachi, but his style reaches as far as Portuguese fado. Also featured on Friday is MC Rai of Tunisia. MC Rai identifies his sound as “Arabic urban rai fusion,” rai referring to a form of traditional Arabic folk. He is known for his interest in humanitarian causes and often performs benefit shows supporting victims of tsunamis and earthquakes. He has also done music for the HBO series Sleeper Cell and recent Sacha Baron Cohen film, The Dictator.
Saturday, Sept. 22 | Green Square Park HANGGAI
One of the most exciting aspects of this year’s killer lineup is Hanggai, from Beijing. The six-member group was born out of interests in Mongolian folk and punk rock. For those of you with raised eyebrows, allow me to explain. Some members of the band are ethnic Mongolians, and the others are experts of Mongolian instruments. Their lead singer once fronted a punk band called T9. T9, perhaps an allusion to the now outdated method of text messaging on a numeric keypad, was young and angry at the world. As front man Ilchi said in an interview with NPR, “I felt we modern people need to understand more about our past.” With the creation of Hanggai, Ilchi channeled his frustrations in a new direction—through leading by example. Using traditional instruments and ancient techniques such as throat singing, Hanggai is on a mission to entertain and educate their audience about their musical and cultural past. While Hanggai can hardly be described as punk, their modern approach to traditional Mongolian folk music often incorporates elements and structures that resemble those of western music. Their first album, Introducing Hanggai made a significant splash upon its release in 2008 and prompted the aforementioned NPR special and praise from other media such as the BBC and Pitchfork.
Terakaft is an active voice for a movement that began in Libya in the early ‘80s. During a time of social and political turbulence, young Libyans whose families had been displaced from their homes in Niger took arms to regain their territory and culture. Some of them also got ahold of guitars and recordings of western rock music. Perhaps the most prominent and influential product of this musical revolution in Africa was the formation of Tinariwen. Often classified as “desert blues,” Tinariwen played rock music during a time when it was illegal, and therefore dangerous to do so. Tinariwen still exists as a collective of rotating musicians, but two of the founding members went on to create a new project, Terakaft. Carrying on their desert rock legacy, Terakaft tours the world spreading their messages of life in the Sahara. In addition to their free performance in Greene Square Park, they will be participating in the festival’s “Blues Summit.” The group will jam their distinct style with local blues musicians such as Craig Erickson. Following the jam session, the Terakaft guys will lead a discussion on their blues influences from around the world. This will be a one of a kind opportunity to interact with some legendary, genre-inventing music makers. The Blues Summit will take place at the African American Museum of Iowa at 7:15 p.m. on Friday.
Local and regional acts are scheduled to perform throughout the week to fill out this already robust listing of bands. Aside from the music, the Landfall festival will have a theater production about a closing Rust Belt plant in Michigan and an independent filmmaker showcase. Additional ticket and scheduling information can be found at www.legionarts.org or (319) 364-1580.
Steve Crowley writes the Weekender, Little Village’s weekly entertainment update. To subscribe, visit LittleVillageMag.com