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Global Roots Festival Wants To Shake Your Winter Blues

Dunuya Drum & Dance
courtesy of Carolyn Kobel

 You know that feeling you get at an outdoor festival? The sun is warm. You hear music and maybe smell something cooking in the air. People are moving, laughing. It’s a feeling that’s hard to duplicate indoors, but this weekend the Michigan Global Roots Festival will attempt to do just that. 

The Global Roots Fest will take place in Kalamazoo Saturday, but it’s actually a three city event. It starts in Lansing Friday night, then moves to Bell’s Brewery on Saturday, then to Grand Rapids on Sunday. World percussionist and Kalamazoo College instructor Carolyn Koebel helps organize the event. Koebel says it started as a way to bring the festival to the artists.

Credit (Courtesy Photo)

“Because each of the founding groups was based in a different city. So we joined forces with Wisaal—a Lebanese, Arabic fusion ensemble at the moment based in Lansing—and then a combination of groups: one of my groups An Dro - Celtic world music from Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo area - and our local drum and dance collective Dunuya Drum & Dance here, and then pulled in some members of the Grand Rapids world percussion community,” she says.

Koebel  says world music begs for a festival atmosphere. 

“What starts to happen is—we move things indoors and people somehow…we create an environment where we expect participants to sit still and be quiet. And we lose something about the essence, about the energy and vibration of this music," says Koebel.

"So really the use of the word ‘festival’ is to connect us to that feeling we have when it’s July and we’re out in the sun, on the grass, in our bare feet, feeling really connected to the Earth and the spirit of the music.”

The Bell’s show will feature some of the founders of the event as well as Japanese taiko drummers from the group Michigan Hiryu Daiko, Persian musician Reza Shirazinejad, Anthony Tibbits of the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi, and dancers from Boheme Tribal Belly Dance as well as Rootead Studio – which teaches African, Brazilian, and other world dance forms.

Unlike some festivals, the Bell’s show is during the day to encourage families to come.

“Because kids have so little inhibition," says Koebel. "They hear the music and they respond and they move. And at that point many parents are likewise inclined. They just kind of…they don’t have any reason not to.”

During performances, Koebel says the audience will get a chance to learn more about these songs and dances and the cultures they come from. Koebel says it’s all about getting everyone up and moving.

“We really very naturally respond to movement and rhythm, and then something starts to stifle us as we grow into our later adult years," she says. "And we’re more about capturing and rekindling some of the curiosity, some of the wonder and innocence that is absolutely inborn in young people.”

The Michigan Global Roots Festival will be in Kalamazoo Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bell’s Brewery.

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