Martha Redbone's music chronicles the crossroads of the American experience. Born in Kentucky and of Cherokee, Choctaw and African-American descent, Redbone combines folk, Appalachian, soul and Native tradition in a group of settings of poetry by William Blake — a startling idea, perhaps, but one that brims with potency and freshness.
The night ended with bumping beats down at Webster Hall's Studio space with the Ottawa-based Native collective A Tribe Called Red. The group calls its style "pow wow step" — an imaginative and dance-floor-ready blend of beats, aboriginal singing and dancing, and visuals and audio samples that turn "Indian" stereotypes on their heads. But the most memorable moments in the set come when A Tribe Called Red invites a dancer out to perform a traditional hoop dance, twisting and turning hoops into elegant and beautiful figures.
Kayhan Kalhaor & Erdal Erzincan Live From Webster Hall
The soulful Persian classical virtuoso and composer Kayhan Kalhor has long been interested in creating artistic bridges to other musicians and styles, including in his work with Yo-Yo Ma's Silk Road Project and a long-term collaboration with the Indian sitarist Shujaat Khan.
The French group Lo'Jo is something of a throwback: For 30 years, it's made world music best described as "worldbeat," a melange of a little of this (French chanson) and a little of that (dollops of North and West African colors and textures) within a musical community that tends to prize strongly rooted tradition. With Denis Péan's gravelly vocals complemented by the Berber singing sisters Yamina and Nadia Nid El Mourid, the band circumnavigates the globe — often within the confines of a single song.
Christine Salem Live From Webster Hall (full concert audio)
As the globalFEST evening wound down, much of the buzz about the biggest finds of the year centered on a seemingly unlikely figure: the vocalist Christine Salem, who made her New York City debut in this performance. Often, it's the artists who make 21st-century, Internet-ready musical hybrids that become the most talked-about GlobalFEST artists, but Salem presents the exact opposite model.
Do you think flamenco can only be danced by someone wearing a frilly, fire-engine-red dress? Elsa Rovayo, frontwoman of Madrid's La Shica ("The Girl"), begs to differ. She performed at New York City's globalFEST in stretch leggings and a studded jacket, singing and dancing to her signature blend of flamenco and indie rock in a combination of original compositions and traditional flamenco tunes.
Oliver Mtukudzi Live From Webster Hall (full concert audio)
GlobalFEST is a great place to discover young new talent, but occasionally the producers welcome familiar friends to their party. This year, it was Zimbabwe's Oliver "Tuku" Mtukudzi, who has been an African musical icon since the late 1970s and brought that sense of homecoming to GlobalFEST with his band The Black Spirits. With his sweet acoustic guitar and husky voice, Mtukudzi gave a lilting and gorgeous performance that evoked traditional Zimbabwean sounds like those of an mbira thumb piano, but filtered them through an accessible, guitar-centered aesthetic.
In December, the actor Dustin Hoffman sat in a box seat at the Kennedy Center as his old friend, Robert De Niro, saluted him at a celebration marking one of the highest accolades for an artist in the United States: a Kennedy Center Honor.