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In Case You Missed It: The Best World Music Moments We Caught at APAP

Does anyone ever get to see everything they want to at APAP? There’s an overwhelming number of showcases scattered throughout Manhattan and the boroughs featuring artists that are famous, unknown, and everything in between. Ron Kadish and Ben Michaels, APAP veterans, managed to catch a few of this year’s global music shows despite their busy schedules as rock paper scissors publicists. I asked them for a rundown of the APAP experiences that were their personal favorites of 2019.

The Mundial Montreal showcase at DROM was a full slate of great global acts, and I had to twist Ron and Ben’s arms to single out a few favorite performances:

OKAN, led by talented multi-instrumentalists Elizabeth Rodriguez and Magdelys Savigne, explores Afro-Cuban genres historically considered masculine. Elizabeth plays violin and delivers powerful vocals while Magdelys plays the Batá drums, once reserved for use by men in Santería ceremonies. Their dynamic ensemble gave a fantastic show, at once contemporary, experimental, and deeply rooted in the Afro-Cuban sound. OKAN is definitely on the rise.

According to Ron, too many musicians don’t take entertainment value seriously enough. Not so with Nomad’Stones: Their no-borders sound arises from many roots in Africa and beyond, charged with jam-band energy that filled the room with pure fun.

Quique Escamilla plays music with an indie rock vibe that honors indigenous Mexican traditions. The unexpected addition of trombone to the classic bass/drum/guitars line-up takes Quique’s sound to the next level, and they rocked the house at DROM. Ben was blown away by Newpoli’s performance. Vocalists Carmen Marsico and Angela Rossi accented their singing with mesmerizing castanets to weave a rhythmic texture into the group’s southern Italian songs (both traditional and original) that inspired fans in the audience to dance their own impromptu tarantella.

GlobalFEST at the Copacabana featured another stellar slate of artists, and again it was a challenge to pull out just a few favorite moments. Gato Preto is gaining well-deserved acclaim for their superb afrofuturist bass, and the duo put on a great SHOW at globalFEST. Ron assures me that nothing but all-caps could capture the experience. 

Over a base of Arabic percussion, 47 SOUL’s electro dabke set crackled with rap and infectious reggae rhythms. Another moment of transcendent synthesis came when slide guitar master Debashish Bhattacharya took a classic of the Hawaiian slack-key guitar repertoire and made it his own, refracting it through an Indian classical lens.

The set by powerhouse Cuban mambo supergroup Orquesta Akokán was nothing short of awesome. Their rendition of Mambo No. 5, with searing improvisational solos from each band member, got everyone in the house on their feet to dance.

That’s our report from Ron and Ben at the front lines of APAP. What did we miss? Who do you expect will break out and reach new heights in 2019?


Gato Preto at globalFEST 2019