Concert of Colors returns with mix of live, streamed, broadcast performances

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

What will local vocalists Athena Johnson, Teresa Marbury and LaRae Starr of the powerhouse trio Dames Brown bring to Detroit's beloved Concert of Colors when it returns next week? The funk.

"We're chic but funky," said Starr. "We bring so many elements from our training and from our past and culture. And when you put it together, it's beautiful. It's definitely funk. It'll motivate you and move you."

The group is one of dozens representing nearly every music genre, from jazz to soul, who will bring to life this year's Concert of Colors as it kicks off Monday and runs through Aug. 9. Dames Brown is one of several groups performing with the Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue.

From left, Athena Johnson, LaRae Starr and Teresa Marbury make up the funk group Dames Brown. Together for roughly 10 years, they've performed all over the United States and overseas. They'll perform with the Don Was All-Star Revue as part of this year's Concert of Colors.

The free Concert of Colors, considered the largest free global music and diversity festival in the Midwest, will have a different format this year because of the pandemic. It'll be a mix of live, streamed and broadcast performances on Detroit Public Television-WTVS and WDET 101.9 FM. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, says Ismael Ahmed, the concert's executive director and founder.

One year after putting on an all virtual show because of COVID-19, Ahmed said they had to make the decision earlier this year about what format they'd pursue and it made sense to offer a mix of everything. Last year's concert drew listeners and viewers from around the world -- 162,000 in fact.

"We don’t want to give that up completely because these are much bigger bands," said Ahmed.

And by big, he means a Ukranian world quartet called DakhaBrakha and popular Haitian band, RAM, that's been creating popular music for more than 25 years. There will also be groups from Guatemala, Japan, Algeria and Uganda.

The Concert of Colors, now in its 29th year, is about bringing people together but it's also very "Detroit-centric," said Ahmed.

"It's also focused on the best talent in the world and emerging talent," he said.

Ahmad said by having an all virtual format last year, they learned they could film and include acts from all over the globe, which they did again this year.

"We have video in Japan, from Haiti, Ukraine and Paris," said Ahmed. "We also shot in Miami and New York."

Featured artists this year include Roy Ayers, Melvin Davis, Souad Massi, Organic Orchestra and Brooklyn Raga Massiv. Don Was All-Star Detroit Revue returns with a tribute to George Clinton.

And new for the first time ever this year is a new youth stage. Located at the Detroit Symphony Orchestra's new Sosnick Outdoor Courtyard at the Orchestra Hall, it will feature a mix of live and streamed performances. The DSO Civic Youth String Ensemble will perform, along with Mosaic Singers from Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, Heritage Works and InsideOut Citywide Poets.

"We're hoping to continue it" going forward, said Ahmed.

For Dames Brown, who spent 12 hours filming their performance with the Don Was Revue, which will be broadcast at 9 and 10 p.m. Aug. 7 on Detroit Public Television-WTVS, being part of the Concert of Colors is an honor, they say. It's about amazing local talent and global acts.

"We love to bring joy and happiness," said Johnson of Ypsilanti. "Concerts of Colors brings together so many nationalities, races."

"That magic word 'Concert of Colors' and to be a part of that array of colors is so magical," said Marbury.

29th Concert of Colors

Monday through Aug. 9

Live, streamed and broadcast performances on Detroit Public Television-WTVS and WDET 101.9 FM

Venues include Detroit's Scarab Club, Detroit Historical Museum, Hellenic Museum of Michigan, and the DSO's Sosnick Outdoor Courtyard.

Go to for complete schedule.