Immigrants Created American Music. A New Festival Tells Their Stories.

Immigrants Created American Music. A New Festival Tells Their Stories.


On April 6 at Zankel, the festival will present the Gloaming, a quintet of Irish and American musicians who merge deeply traditional Irish fiddling and singing with daring, often luminously introspective harmonies and arrangements. To Martin Hayes, a fiddler from County Clare who founded the group, the Gloaming continues a century-long dialogue between Irish music and its American diaspora, restoring some of the subtleties that were discouraged by the limitations of early recordings and the guitar-strumming enthusiasm of the 1960s folk revival.

“There is a thread of unacknowledged, deeper emotional expression that got ironed out of the music in some ways,” Mr. Hayes said. In the Gloaming’s music, “Lots of things can happen, but the only rule is that they actually amplify and develop the innate feeling that happens inside the melodic structure.”

Meanwhile, the melting pot continues to simmer. The Migrations festival has embraced a series now in its fifth year at the Flushing Town Hall arts center: Global Mashups, which presents double bills of musicians from disparate traditions for an audience that comes to dance. Dance steps are taught before the performance, and after each group plays its own set, they jam together — an accelerated version of American music’s cross-pollination. “By the end of the night, you’re not a stranger any more,” said Ellen Kodadek, the executive and artistic director of Flushing Town Hall.

This year’s lineup begins March 9 with the category-defying Hazmat Modine — a blues-rooted group that can swerve into New Orleans brass-band jazz, ska or klezmer — and Falu, a singer born in Mumbai who will be performing music from vintage Bollywood films and from Holi, a Hindu spring festival of renewal and forgiveness.

Falu represents the 11th generation of a family of Hindustani classical musicians; she immigrated to the United States 20 years ago, and studied Western songwriting at Berklee College of Music. Her Indian-rooted children’s album, “Falu’s Bazaar,” was a nominee at the most recent Grammy Awards. “My purpose in making ‘Falu’s Bazaar’ was to keep the tradition living,” she said. “To give everybody who has immigrated, who has a different culture to latch onto, who has some story to tell, to give validation that your song matters, your story matters.”

She has no qualms about the cross-cultural jam with Hazmat Modine. “Music is the most unifying power,” she said. “We’re going to bring people together.”



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