Global Union

In only eight short years, Global Union has become Milwaukee’s go-to big-beautiful-dance-party-slash-farewell-to-summer.

Sat, Sept 21, 2013

Humboldt Park


It helps that it’s in one of the city’s best parks, it’s FREE (as always), and it’s ONE DAY ONLY.  That means you should mark your calendar now.  Global Union 2013 features bands from Pakistan, Argentina, Haiti, Quebec and Algeria, with some surprise guests from our own hometown.  After all, Milwaukee is a part of the world, right?  Throw in the great international food and crafts, Milwaukee’s great community organizations, your family, your friends, and YOU, and there’s no better way to say farewell to summer.

This year, we pair ecstatic devotional Muslim music from Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers with ecstatic devotional Christian music with Milwaukee’s own Masonic Wonders.  Tal National from Niger and the international Hip Hop collective Nomadic Massive will round out the Festival.

Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers - 2:00PM

One of Pakistan’s most esteemed qawwali ensembles. The sons of Ustad Qawal Bahauddin Khansahab, the legendary maestro of the Khusrou tradition of qawwali singing, Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers are direct descendants of the first qawwali choirs dating back to the 13th century. Now the torch-bearers of more than 700 years of this mystical Sufi devotional singing tradition, Qawal Najmuddin Safuddin & Brothers will travel from their home in Karachi to share this magical experience.

From Jon Pareles, NY Times, 10/30/11 -- Qawwali and Gnawa music are Islamic styles that take a visceral path toward celebration of the divine. Like gospel music, though with their own rhythms and messages of praise, both styles flat-out rock. They build from prayerful incantations to handclapping and (for the Gnawas) foot-stamping rhythms; repeated refrains gather momentum as improvisatory vocals curl, rasp and ascend.

Nomadic Massive - 5:00PM

Montreal’s Nomadic Massive has firmly established itself as a group of premier performers and skilled musicians in a genre that has evolved from its early days of two turntables and a microphone.  These musical nomads from Algeria, Haiti, Argentina and Canada represent an open-minded Hip-Hop which finds its inspiration in the traditions of the past; combining live instrumentation, samples, and a wide array of vocal styles.

This multilingual, multi-cultural, super-group has become synonymous with energetic and crowd-moving live shows.  Sharing the stage with such notable acts as Wyclef Jean (2008), K’Naan (2005), and Guru’s Jazzmatazz (2008), Nomadic has also performed at world class festivals including the Montreal International Jazz Festival (2007), and in Toronto at Yonge-Dundas Square’s Global Rhythms Festival (2008), and the Harbourfront Global Hip-Hop Festival (2006, 2007).

The group has also left its mark internationally, initiating socio-cultural exchanges with like-minded artists from Sao Paolo, Brazil (2008) and in Havana, Cuba (2004, 2006).  In both countries, these initiatives involved educational and musical workshops, concerts and studio collaborations.  From these enriching exchanges, the grassroots “Get Down” mix-tape series came to life, showcasing the collaborations as well as solo contributions from Brazilian and Cuban artists.  Assuming the role of cultural ambassadors, Nomadic continues to redefine what Hip-Hop can achieve on a global level.

Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang - 12:30PM

Sierra Leonean singer Janka Nabay exclaims: "All I am about is making history," a modest goal for someone who revived a fading musical treasure, made it big back home, escaped war and chaos, and still managed to write and play songs while working at American fast-food fryers. Now, at last, Nabay hits his stride with Brooklyn indie experimenters-turned-acolytes The Bubu Gang (with members of Skeletons, Chairlift, Starring, Saadi, and Highlife) on his first album-length release in the West, En Yay Sah ("I'm Scared" Luaka Bop; CD/LP/digital release: August 7, 2012).

Nabay's "bubu" music may sound utterly hip and futuristic to American ears, but its history spans centuries. The original "bubu" is cloaked in mythology: according to Nabay a young "bubu boy" took it from witches 500 years ago and brought it to the public at large, sacrificing his own life in the process. When Islam reached Sierra Leone, bubu became a part of indigenous processionals during Ramadan; this is the music Nabay learned and perfected as a child. As Janka says: "Bubu is an old, old music, but people don't know about it. You can add new things into the beat if you know it really well, and make your own sound out of it."

See more at: Janka Nabay and the Bubu Gang

Masonic Wonders - 3:30PM

The longest continually-performing Black Gospel quartet in Milwaukee, the Masonic Wonders were formed by members of a Masonic lodge in 1956. They are currently led by Charles McCullum and Charles Carter, original members of the group. McCullum transplanted to Milwaukee from Mississippi, where he learned the Sanctified shouts and spirituals that are bedrock for the quartet’s material. The Masonics had single records released by Checker, a subsidiary of the Chicago blues label Chess, in the 1960s. They have always featured the close harmonies of three background vocalists supporting a fiery lead singer, with a backing band centered on electric guitar, bass and drums that has had an interracial lineup since the late 1980s when singer-songwriter John Sieger began working with the group. The Masonic Wonders’ first album, Higher in the Lord, featured the group’s original singers with John and Mike Sieger (R&B Cadets/Semi Twang) in the backup band, while their 1999 CD Wake Up Call has a title song written by Sieger, along with originals by McCullum and classic spirituals like “I’ll Fly Away” and “You Got to Move”.  The current Masonic Wonders singers feature Sylvester McIntosh and Felix Willis along with McCullum and Carter. The backup band includes Craig Ward, drums, Tim Goss, bass, Terry Vittone, guitar, and guest guitarist, Peter Roller, who played on the Wake Up Call CD.


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