Going global

March 11

Famoro Dioubate, a Guinean balafon player, joins a lineup of international musicians for Friday's Global Roots Music Festival at the Broad Art Museum.
Courtesy Photo

A sampling of international art will be on display at the Broad Art Museum this weekend, but this art won’t be hanging on the walls — it will be echoing off of them.

The Global Roots Music Festival, which comes to the museum Friday, is a traveling event that features both local and international artists who specialize in musical styles from around the world. Kalamazoo-based percussionist Carolyn Koebel, who has been co-coordinator of the festival for the three years of its existence, seeks to inspire collaboration among artists and share international music with new audiences.

"Our concept is to develop a forum for lesser-known musical styles and genres," she said. "We'd like to cultivate an environment where those genres can come together and celebrate each other."

Headlining the night is Guinean balafon player Famoro Dioubate. The balafon, also known as the bala, is a marimba-like instrument from West Africa.

"It sounds like a mellower version of the xylophone," explained Igor Houwat, co-organizer of the festival.

The balafon has an important place in Dioubate's family. Dioubate, who now lives in Harlem, comes from a long line of Guinean djeli, who are traveling musician/ historians. His grandfather is El Hadj Djeli Sory Kouyate, a renowned balafon player and leader of the National Instruments Ensemble of Guinea in the 1960s and ‘70s.

“My grandfather was the number one bala player in West Africa,” Dioubate said. “He brought me to the ensemble, and he taught me a lot of things.”

Dioubate is joined Friday by Elden Kelly, a local guitarist/singer who draws from a variety of world styles. Kelly’s main instrument is an electric nylon-string guitar introduced to him by another West African musician, Habib Koeté of Mali.

"Nylon-stringed instruments are used in a lot of West African music. I find the softer sound lends very nicely to the balafon," Kelly said. "When I'm playing, it's like I'm imitating different African instruments and simultaneously blending in my American influences."

Earlier in his career, Dioubate participated in artist residencies in France and has collaborated in educational programs at the Juilliard School. He composes, arranges, and records albums with artists throughout the world.

"It's pretty amazing seeing Famoro at work,” Kelly said. “He has so much energy, and it never lets up. He goes full force for the full show and has so much joy and warmth and openness."

The evening is designed as something of a world music sampler platter featuring shorts sets from a variety of musicians. Celtic-based acoustic group An Dro, with Koebel on percussion, performs alongside dancers from Kalamazoo’s Erin Quinn School of Irish Dance. Also performing is Michigan Hiryu Daiko, a Kalamazoo-based outfit that performs on Japanese taiko drums, as well as Rhythm Life Collective, a percussion and dance group.

Audiences of all ages are welcome, and a cash bar is available.

"It's very multigenerational and multicultural," Koebel said. "It's a lot of fun to dance, to listen and to let the kids wiggle around. The whole night is a mini-trip around the world."

Global Roots Music Festival

5-8 p.m. Friday, March 11 FREE Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum 547 E. Circle Drive, East Lansing (517) 884-4800, broadmuseum.msu.edu


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