ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Neal Copperman and Tom Frouge have a system for choosing the musicians for ¡Globalquerque! music festival.
No, they don’t put on blindfolds and randomly stick pins on a map of the world.
The festival’s founding producers travel to conferences and concerts worldwide to listen to bands they think will be a good fit.
For this weekend’s ninth annual ¡Globalquerque! at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, there are musicians from Taiwan, India, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Argentina and Mexico, among other countries.
Oh yes, and some from the United States.
“Obviously we want a certain geographic spread. We want to present artists from as many different regions of the world as possible,” Copperman said.
“Then we’re looking for a stylistic reach, too. We want to have traditional artists and we want to have contemporary artists.”
Book-ending the weekend’s events are two Americans who extend the festival’s music reach.
Singer Leon Russell, who’s in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, opens the festival tonight. And Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band are the closers Saturday night.
Sanchez traces his love of music to three Latin jazz greats whom he called his heroes … and friends. The three are Mongo Santamaria, Clare Fischer and Cal Tjader.
“I used to watch Santamaria play at The Lighthouse in Hermosa Beach (California) when I was in high school. I was in the ninth grade. I didn’t even have a car or a driver’s license,” Sanchez said in a phone interview.
“I was raised in Norwalk, Calif., and I had to ask friends with lowrider cars (to take me). …They’d ask, ‘Why do you want to go out there?'”
Sanchez has since become one of the bright stars in the Latin jazz world as a bandleader and a conga player. Musicians and audiences alike took notice of him when he started playing with Tjader.
Sanchez, who also has performed with Fischer, remembers playing Fischer’s tune “Morning” over the years, including with his own band. It was even on Sanchez’s very first album.
“It’s done very, very well. People still ask for it,” he said.
That tune happens to be on Sanchez’s latest CD “Hollywood & Highland,” a live recording that contains some of the conga player’s longtime favorite numbers.
“People still ask for my version of it,” he said. “We should revisit that tune (in Albuquerque).”
Sanchez is an anomaly in the music business. He’s had a long relationship with a single recording company. In his case, Concord Records. He’s released 28 albums over 30 years.
“They’ve given me the creative freedom. They have never told me what to record,” Sanchez said.
Even if Sanchez’s band does play “Morning” at ¡Globalquerque!, chances are Copperman and Frouge won’t get to hear it.
“We don’t take it in as a festival. We’re always running around. That’s the case every year,” Frouge said.
But he acknowledged that the festival has been running a bit smoother in recent years because the sound crews, the backstage staff, the coordinators and the volunteers are familiar with the demands.
Frouge said he’s known for this comment: “¡Globalquerque! is a great festival. One year I hope to go.”
He and Copperman were asked to name one “don’t-miss” band at this year’s festival.
They both mentioned DakhaBrakha from the Ukraine.
“Tom and I saw them in Greece at a conference,” Copperman said. “They completely blew us away. Part of it was the strong visuals and presence. They’re wearing long flowing robes and fur hats. The music has a traditional element and a very tribal feeling. … It was just fresh and exciting.”
Performances are at the NHCC’s Journal Theatre, Plaza Mayor and Fountain Courtyard. Performance times are staggered so patrons can see at least a portion of all the performances.
• Leon Russell.
• Las Flores del Valle, a female vocal-guitar duo from New Mexico.
• Rhythm of Rajasthan. Through music and dance, it fuses traditional rhythms and melodies from the East Indian state of Rajasthan.
• A Moving Sound. This is a Taiwanese vocals-and-dance troupe that plays modern songs inspired by musical ideas from Taiwan, mainland China and other Asian countries.
• T.O. Combo. This band from the Tohono O’odham Nation plays traditional, instrumental dance music known as “chicken scratch.”
• Kinky, an important rock-electronica band from Monterrey, Mexico, whose songs have been heard on such TV shows as “CSI-NY” and “Kingpin.”
• Christine Salem. She is from the French island of La Réunion in the Indian Ocean. She writes her own songs that are from African maloya tradition.
• Solas, an Irish-American band that plays ancient and modern Celtic music.
• Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars. It uses original songs as a call to fight for justice and condemn wrongs in their once battle-scarred West African country.
• Christine Salem.
• Sons of the Rio Grande. The New Mexico-based acoustic quartet plays Western music.
• Kardemimmit. This all-female trio brings together traditional and modern folk music of their native Finland.
• Noura Mint Seymali. This Mauritanian singer composes songs for an ensemble that plays traditional instruments.
• Sihasin. This Navajo brother and sister duo of Clayson (drums) and Janeda (bass) Benally sing original songs to empower communities worldwide.
• A Moving Sound.
• Rhythm of Rajasthan.
• Krar Collective. A trio consisting of a singer, drummer and a person who plays the Ethiopian harp known as a krar. The band is nicknamed “the White Stripes of Ethiopia.”
• Sofia Rei, the Argentine-born vocalist lives in New York City, combining traditional South American rhythms with jazz harmonies, electronic sounds and her own improvisations.
• Poncho Sanchez.
¡Globalquerque! has a free School Outreach Program today.
In addition, the festival also offers a free Global Fiesta from 10:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. The fiesta includes workshops with evening performers, dance lessons, interactive programs for the family, as well as two films. There are food and art booths as well as a silent auction tent.