Global Union's 2013 Lineup is Typically Worldly

Aug. 13, 2013
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Nomadic Massive
There aren't many music festivals that pride themselves on booking artists you haven't heard of, but Alverno Presents' Global Union festival in Bay View's Humboldt Park is an exception. Each year, the event prides itself in booking semi-obscure acts from around the world that fuse the sounds of their native lands with unlikely sounds seldom associated with those countries. Some of these acts are emerging and making names for themselves outside of world-music circles, others are content to fly below the radar, but all of them lend themselves to a lovely afternoon in the park.

Like last year, this year's Global Union will be a free, one-day event, running from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21. Today the organizers revealed the schedule, a typically eclectic assortment of international travelers with names I don't want to attempt to pronounce with one unusual outlier: Milwaukee's long-running gospel institution Masonic Wonders, an interesting local touch that many attendees probably won't be any more familiar with than the artists from Pakistan or Haiti.

Descriptions of this year's headliners can be found below, courtesy of a helpful press release from the event.
Tal National are from Niamey, the capital city of Niger. A domestic phenomenon, they’ve had several #1 songs in their home country and are constantly featured on national TV - folks in Niger leave their TVs on and use them as boomboxes.  Despite their popularity, they sell their discs on the street, at roundabouts, since there is no distribution system in the country. Tal National’s last CD pressing sold out in just one day.

Niger is West Africa’s largest nation, and one of the world’s poorest. Resting between Mali and Nigeria, and not far from Ghana, it enjoys a greatly varied mix of cultures and ethnicities, all richly steeped in music. Hence it is no stranger to highlife music, kora music, and afrobeat, while giving the world ‘Tuareg Blues’ and its own brand of Hip-Hop. The result is a joyously hypnotic, highly unique contribution to West African guitar music. Tal National are bringing something entirely new to the table.

The band is driven by the charismatic, forward-thinking bandleader, Hamadal “Almeida” Moumine, who also teaches at the local SOS Children's Village twice a week, serves as a judge in local courts, and had a successful soccer career before becoming Niger’s best-loved guitarist. In 2012, turning a dust-covered, half-abandoned studio into their rough-and-ready home base with help from Chicago-based producer Jamie Carter, Tal National laid down tracks all day, only to dash off to five-hour shows later in the evening. Carter sent the tracks along to FatCat, and the open-eared label signed Tal National in 2013.

Qawal Najmuddin Saifuddin & Brothers are 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 Saifuddin & Brothers will travel from their home in Karachi to share this magical musical 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.

The Masonic Wonders

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, and Alverno College music professor Peter Roller, who played on the Wake Up Call CD.        

Nomadic Massive
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.


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