Facebook R&B crooner Mario has been relatively quiet on the music front for…
- Posted on Mar 24th 2009 11:00AM by Steve Hochman
If that's not your taste, there are always those techno beats blaring from the annual club-happy Winter Music Conference, which is happening right now.
"When you see a stereotype of a place on TV -- and this is true for everywhere -- that really only defines a certain range of life in a city," says Miami music promoter Laura Quinlan. "And there are always more interesting things found on the ground."
It's with that in mind that she's programmed the Heineken TransAtlantic Festival. Using the tag line "Modern World Music," the festival was started in the early '90s with the intent to bridge the local club scene with the richness of the cultures in the city. The four main shows spread out over the last two weekends of April will cover a lot of cultural bases: Innovative Colombian rockers Aterciopelados are co-billed with Brazil's half-Japanese/half-Spanish electropicalia act Curumin. Rising Mexican alt-rock star Ximena Sarinana tops a bill opened by local singer-songwriter Rachel Goodrich. New York Afro-soulsters the Budos Band is paired with Miami-Cuban eclecticist Javier Garcia (pictured). And closing is a doubleheader of electric Saharan nomad blues icons Tinariwen and Cucu Diamantes, the dynamo best known for her role leading the New York Latin groove collective Yerba Buena. Don't tell anyone, but Quinlan is hopeful that there will even be a unique onstage Tinariwen/Diamantes collaboration. (You can hear a sampling of sounds from the artists here.)
It's a roster, Quinlan says, that truly reflects and serves the actual Miami population.
"There is an amazing vibrant music scene here," she says. "A lot of really connected people of all ages are interested in what's happening on a global basis. Those are the stereotypes Miami sees. This is really a Latin city, a Caribbean city. So many things we're doing in the festival are just considered music here, not 'modern world music.' And we have a lot of recent arrivals, so a lot of what we're bringing in is what their friends back home are listening to."
On a bigger scale, she's hoping not just to bust the standard images of the city but elevate its image into the ranks of premiere culture capitals.
"Cities that are full of immigrants are our most vital cities," she says. "This festival is a celebration of that. We're the Atlantic Rim, people from all the Latin countries and all over Europe. That's what makes it an exciting, growing city -- like L.A., Paris or New York."
Quinlan traces her passion to the fact that she herself is the product of an earlier generation of musical imports.
"My father came down from New York in the first heyday of Miami music in the '50s to be a bandleader at the Fontainbleau and other hotels," says the promoter, who, as director of Rhythm Foundation year-round, books shows at various facilities, including a recent 'Brazil on the Beach' free concert featuring Rio's Daniela Mercury and a show at the Arsht Center this Sunday starring Portuguese fado star Mariza.
But it isn't just Miami's stereotypes that she's trying to fight but the stereotypes some people have about "world music."
"The focus of the festival has been on artists who mix traditional sounds with electronica," Quinlan says. "I started it to bring in some of the younger people. This is a really clubby city. Everybody is club-crazy. That was the original goal. I was a club-crazy person, too. So I wanted to bring out some of the music I was enjoying -- less of the folkloric music. 'Modern World Music' was the best way to differentiate if from the cliché some people have in their heads as to what is world music."
That said, it's been a bit of an uphill effort to build this festival. Miami, she notes, has not been on the tour circuit for much of the music she's been bringing in. Few of the acts on this year's dates have never even played there before, including Tinariwen, which has made several acclaimed North American tours. The negative side of that is that there's some wariness about "world music," a sense that it's kind of high-fiber stuff rather than something fun. But on the positive side, it gave her a blank slate on which to work.
"Some things that are true about the world music market in other cities don't apply," she says. "We don't have the standard world music audience here. Things that might be cliché presentations in other places don't even enter the picture here."
And now she and her team are making the efforts to turn the TransAtlantic into not just a local happening but a regional and ultimately even national attraction. With the corporate sponsorship allowing for more ambitious booking and expanded promotion and marketing efforts, not to mention her contagious enthusiasm, it's a reasonable goal.
"This year we really made the leap to try to bring people from outside the Miami/Palm Beach area," she says. "We're trying to build this as a tourism-generating event."
There is one other Miami cliché that she says is archaic -- though she wishes the culture it represents were still a significant presence. The city is no longer quite the center for Jews moving from the Northeast to spend their retirement years.
"That's gone," she says. "And we miss them! But yes, that stereotype lingers, too."