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The Concert of Colors, Detroit's music-saturated, summer saturnalia, will rock Midtown through July 18, this year playing out on the stage at the Detroit Film Theatre and surrounding cultural institutions. 

The main stage at DFT will comprise the elegant backdrop for a range of world musicians including Egyptian dissident-rocker Ramy Essam, Toby Foyeh and Orchestra Africa, and Don Was' Detroit All-Star Revue. 

The 27th-annual Concert, with 10 stages at nine venues, will close with a bang July 18 with an evening salute to Martha Reeves at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History - the only ticketed event in the entire festival. "Dancing in the Street," with the Detroit All-Star Revue, will help the Motown legend celebrate her 78th birthday. 

"This is the third time she’s done our revue," said Grammy-winner Was of Reeves. "I love her, man. It’s a great honor to play with Martha.

"Was is also excited about working with Motown's The Velvelettes.

"They’ll do a couple songs – I’m loath to give away the set list before the gig, but they made great records with a real sassiness to them." Was said. "I don’t think they ever quite got their due."

Like many Detroiters who've moved elsewhere -- Was has been in Los Angeles since his mid-30s, but gets home several times a year -- he's looking forward to checking out recent changes in the city.

"Oh, I love coming back," Was said. "If I didn’t have my day gig here in LA, I’d move back." As for developments in Detroit, he called them "pretty wild - now it's jumping."

But he's got his work cut out for him before he hops on the plane to Detroit -- learning the bass-guitar parts for the Motown hits the revue will perform. 

"I know all these songs, but listening to what James Jamerson did on the bass," Was said, referring to the legendary bass guitarist on dozens of Motown hits, "it made me cry. He’s such a mad genius."

Unlike Was, performing in Detroit will be a whole new experience for Egyptian rocker Ramy Essam, one of the leaders of Cairo's Arab Spring who still lives in exile in Scandinavia. 

Speaking from New York's Bryant Park a day before flying to Detroit, Essam, whose music helped fuel the 2011 peaceful uprising, said he's always been a fan of American rock. As a youngster he was nuts about grunge, with a particular fondness for Kurt Cobain, Nirvana, Linkin Park and Rage Against the Machine. 

"I love rock music," he said. "In Seattle once, I even went to Kurt Cobain's house." 

His own music, which he'll perform at DFT on July 13 at 3 p.m., Essam described as "rock with an Egyptian flavor" in both beat and melodies. "Even when I sing in English, which I started recently," he said, "you’ll still hear the Egyptian taste."

Essam will also take part in a discussion at the Annex at Dearborn's Arab American National Museum this evening, "Forum on Community, Culture & Race: The Power of Owning Our Voices," led by Detroit poet Dr. Gloria House, the 2019 Kresge Eminent Artist. 

This year's Concert of Colors will also pay tribute to a trio of key anniversaries -- Motown's 60th birthday, the 100th anniversary of Orchestra Hall, and the half century since the Apollo moon landing in 1969.

mhodges@detroitnews.com 

(313) 222-6021

Twitter: @mhodgesartguy  

'Concert of Colors' 

Through July 18 

Midtown Detroit 

Free through July 17

6 p.m.- 1 a.m. July 18 - "Dancing in the Street" birthday celebration with Martha Reeves

Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren, Detroit

"Dancing" tickets: $100 & $50 - visit thewright.org

concertofcolors.com 

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