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World Music Festival Brings Global Flair to Madison Starting Tonight


The World Music Festival is in full swing in Madison this weekend.

The Memorial Union Terrace and the big stage on the 800 block of Williamson Street are the venues to celebrate the a diverse, unique collection of musical acts from across the world.

For 15 years, Madison has been home to the cutting edge festival that brings in acts from literally every corner of the globe. Syria, Iran, Russia, Ethiopia, Palestine and Kurdistan are just some of the places musical and dance acts will be coming from to perform in Madison this weekend.

The goal of the festival is to broaden horizons, particularly for UW students, and serve as a platform for artists who may be very well-known in their countries but haven’t performed in the United States yet.

“We want to widen horizons and get people to think, see, feel, view and experience things they’re not used to,” Esty Dinur, Director of Community Relations at Wisconsin Union Theater, told Madison365. “We wanted to bring artists from all corners of the world to introduce new genres and music from places that Madison has never heard music from before.”

For decades, “World Music” was mostly perceived as being either Latin Jazz or music from Africa. But Dinur says that changing that perception has been a goal of the festival and the diversity has been a wonderful experience.

About eight years ago, the festival expanded out to the Willy Street Fair, which allows more of the community to participate than on campus.

In addition to music, the festival includes workshops featuring some of the artists who will be performing.

At 2 pm students from three different high schools will be doing a workshop with Orquesta el Macabeo, a band from Puerto Rico, to talk about the island after Hurricane Maria and the challenges for people in Puerto Rico with first-hand stories from the musicians themselves.

At 6 pm at the Memorial Union, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra, an Eastern European act, will be teaching a dance workshop in the Festival Room. The workshop will be focused on teaching anyone interested in learning Eastern European Dance, which will come in handy when the Lemon Bucket Orkestra performs at 9pm on the Union Terrace Friday night.

On Saturday, September 15, Tani Diakite & the Afrofunkstars will open up festivities at the Willy Street Fair at 2 pm. Performances will go from 2 until 7:45pm at the Willy Street Fair before a closing performance at 9pm back at the Memorial Union by Gill Yalo from Ethiopia.

The impact of the World Music Festival in Madison has been felt all over the midwest. In the past, World Music acts have gone to larger venues like in Texas or California and weren’t as familiar with the midwest. But because of the success of the festival in Madison, agents are steering their acts towards midwestern festivals because they see there is an audience.

“Other venues in the midwest have joined in, so together with them, you could say we’ve created a whole new routing experience for international artists,” Dinur told Madison365. “And now agents know there’s audiences in the midwest and that has affected other festivals. It’s a wonderful thing and also through that collaboration we’ve been able to bring in artists that we otherwise wouldn’t have because of budget constraints.”

The World Music Festival is free and open to the public. Here is the full list of the scheduled acts and locations:

Friday, September 14, 2018
Memorial Union Terrace
4:30pm | Orquesta el Macabeo | Puerto Rico
5:15pm | Sona Jobarteh | Gambia (Play Circle)
6p | Dance Workshop with Lemon Bucket Orkestra (Festival Room)
6:45pm | Hoven Droven | Sweden
9pm | Lemon Bucket Orkestra | Canada/Eastern Europe

Saturday, September 15, 2018
Willy Street Fair
2p | Tani Diakite & the Afrofunkstars | Mali/Madison
4p | Aynur | Turkey
5:45p | La Misa Negra | Latin America
7:45p | Gili Yalo | Israel/Ethiopia

Memorial Union Terrace
9pm | La Dame Blanche | Cuba/France