The Concert of Colors features music and musicians that literally span the globe, but festival spokesperson Kim Silarski says the diverse acts share a few common factors.
“You can be guaranteed that anything you dip into, even if it’s just for a few minutes, is going to be incredibly stimulating and probably danceable,” says Silarski, communications manager for the Arab American National Museum, which produces the event.
The free festival kicks off Saturday and then returns July 8-12 at the Music Box, Orchestra Hall and other Midtown sites. It features over 30 performers with genres ranging from Detroit rock to Ukrainian ethnic music to Puerto Rican folk to jazz.
One of the major international stars among this year’s lineup is Moroccan musician Hassan Hakmoun, who plays a traditional instrument called the sentir. Hakmoun is known for blending rock elements with the African music style called Gnawa.
“He’s someone who’s known as a sound innovator,” Silarski says. “There was a great quote on him in the New York Times and they called him ‘the Eddie Van Halen of the sentir.’”
Originally announced as the crown jewel of this year’s lineup, legendary Nigerian musician King Sunny Ade has canceled his Concert of Colors appearance (and his entire summer tour) due to a recent State Department computer glitch that nearly halted visa issuance last month. However, organizers have moved quickly to fill Ade’s slot with local color in a tribute to recently deceased Detroit jazz great Marcus Belgrave.
Detroit-bred musician and producer Don Was will be among those honoring Belgrave at that show. Was describes Belgrave as a “beautiful, generous human being” who would go out of his way to help other musicians — as when he played trumpet on Was’ early records with his band Was (Not Was).
“I’ve always been grateful to him for playing on those records,” Was says. “It wasn’t something he had to do. It wasn’t something he made any real bread off of. He just did it to help us.”
Was will also pay tribute to another Motor City legend this year when he returns to host his now-traditional eighth annual “Detroit All-Star Revue.” This year’s revue will be structured as a tribute to legendary Detroit radio DJ the Electrifying Mojo, who introduced artists like Prince and the B-52s to Detroit and helped popularize them nationwide. Revue performers including Juan Atkins, Carolyn Striho and Third Coast Kings, who will present their own takes on the songs Mojo made famous.
Was says that to him, Mojo represents something similar to the Concert of Colors itself: the unification of disparate communities through music.
“I just remember driving to the studio at midnight and seeing people honking their horns and flashing their lights on command from (Mojo) as you took the Midnight Funk Association oath,” Was says. “It felt like you belonged in some way. It represents everything that’s great about radio and everything that’s great about people.”
Hip-hop artist Mike Ellison, who will also present a revue-style show this year, says the community created amongst a distinctly diverse audience makes the Concert of Colors “a very pure experience” for performers.
“We’re very proud because at our show, the audience reflects the music,” Ellison says. “It’s multi-cultural and it’s multi-generational. Thankfully, we’ve been able to entertain everybody from grandparents down to grandchildren and everyone in between.”
Concert of Colors
Saturday and July 8-12
New Center Park
2990 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit
Max M. Fischer Music Center
3711 Woodward, Detroit
Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History
315 E. Warren, Detroit
Arab American National Museum
13624 Michigan Ave., Dearborn