Everything happens in the trees: Barbès in the Woods offers an eclectic musical program in Montague
For the past two decades or so, what was once a laundromat in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, New York, has been a busy concert hall and bar, showcasing a wide range of music, from jazz to jazz. world music through Americana and experimental sounds.
Barbès was founded by two expatriate French musicians who named the club after a district of Paris known for its record stores, food markets, discount stores and a large North African population.
In 2019, Laudable Productions of Easthampton, which has notably produced the Millpond.Live outdoor concerts in recent years, decided to bring a taste of Brooklyn-based music to western Massachusetts. And after being forced online in 2020, the live festival is back for 2021.
Barbès in the Woods, which takes place on Saturday, August 21 at Bartlett Farm at 27, rue Center in Montague from 3 p.m. to 11 p.m., offers a range of acts whose sounds are everywhere: afro-funk, jazz, Sufi, electro Persian pop, and what is widely described as “garage-marimba-cumbia-punk”.
Kyle Homstead and Cassandra Holden of Laudable Productions describe Barbès in the Woods as a “rural retreat” for groups that have found an urban home in Brooklyn. The 12-acre Barlett Farm has fields, woods and the Sawmill River that members of the public can explore when not listening to the music of two stages that will be set up next to each other, where the groups will play consecutive performances.
This, the producers say, means one can hear “uninterrupted and risk-free FOMO” (the fear of missing out on an exciting or interesting event happening elsewhere at the same time).
Although they are not part of the Barbes scene in Brooklyn, two acts that are part of the August 21 show fall within the broad parameters of the music presented there. One is Liraz, an Iranian-born Israeli singer and actor who sings in Farsi (and Hebrew), and the second is Son Rompe Pera, a Mexican band whose sound blends Mexican folk traditions with a punk sensibility. Both made their debuts in the United States at Barbès in the Woods.
“The festival, like the bar it is named after, is rooted in the idea of global citizenship, of building a global musical culture,” Holden said in an email. “In our 2nd year, it felt natural to expand beyond the borders of Brooklyn and start looking for exciting artists much more broadly.”
Here’s a look at some of the acts:
Arooj Aftab – The Pakistani-born singer and songwriter, now living in New York City, received considerable attention this year for her latest album, “Vulture Prince”, which TIME, the Guardian and Pitchfork all rated as one of the best. albums from 2021, and which, according to the singer, was steeped in the grief she experienced after the death of her younger brother.
On “Vulture Prince”, Aftab turned to ghazal, a form of Arabic poetry that deals with loss and desire, and combined this with, as Pitchfolk writes, “minimal compositions that draw inspiration from jazz, Hindustani classical, folk and – on one song – reggae to create a heartbreaking and exquisite document of the journey from grief to acceptance.
Laudable Productions asserts that the straightforward nature of Aftab’s compositions “rejects all that is not essential and invites the listener into an intimate listening space filled with prayers, laments and serious requests.”
At Barbès in the Woods, she will perform with members of her ensemble, including guitarist Gyan Riley and violinist Darian Donovan Thomas. His set will be co-presented with Antenna Cloud Farm, the artists’ retreat, also in Montague.
BIGYUKI – Japanese keyboardist and composer Masayuki Hirano, whose musical trade name is BIGYUKI, grew up studying and playing classical piano, then came to the United States to attend Berklee College of Music in Boston, where, according to a report , he “spent hours alone in the piano practice rooms, learning to play bass with his left hand, just to avoid having to ask others to play with him.
This autodidact led him to a new musical palette: funk, hip-hop, gospel, organ-based jazz. Today, Masayuki, nicknamed “NYC’s Secret Weapon”, offers what Laudable describes as “a contagious and beautifully strange music palette” that combines classical flourishes, jazz and pop. Among the people he has performed with are jazz saxophonist Kamasi Washington; at Barbès in the Woods, he will be joined by guitarist Randy Runyon and drummer Tim “Smithsoneon” Smith.
Liraz – Making her U.S. debut at Barbes in the Woods, Israeli singer and actress Liraz grew up speaking Farsi – her parents were Judeo-Persian emigrants from Iran – and then reconnected with Iranian culture when she lived in Los Angeles and met other Iranian emigrants there. started collecting pre-revolutionary Iranian music.
She is now playing what is described as retro Persian soul and psychedelic electro-pop; his Israeli group has secretly collaborated with Iranian musicians to produce the tracks for his new album, “Zan”. It is a sign, says Laudable, of “how music can transcend nationalism, politics and war.”
Son Rompe Pera – This Mexican “band of brothers” who learned to play the marimba and other instruments from their father during years of busking, play a mix of what Laudable calls “cha-cha-cha, psychobilly and cumbia”.
“Son Rompe Pera is a band we’ve been looking at for a few years,” Holden said. “In fact, we invited them to perform virtually at BITW last year, and they obligated us in the most delightful way by finding a forest just outside Mexico City to go and record their set live.
Holden also notes that one of the founders of the original Barbes, Olivier Conan, says Son Rompe Pera delivers “one of the best live sets he’s seen in the past 10 years … and he sees a LOT of music. “.
Also on the show on August 21, Berkshire Bacteria (Brazilian samba), Mamie Minch (acoustic blues), Kaleta & Super Yamba (afro-funk) and Los Cumpleaños (Latin and jazz music with psychedelic and electronic touches).
In addition, Holden says the Shea Theater, Fine House and Eggtooth Productions are teaming up to present “traveling and pop-up theater shows” during the festival at a number of venues on the ground. And on Friday August 20, there will be a free pre-concert fashion show, followed by a dance party at the Pioneer Valley Brewery in Turners Falls; activities start at 8 p.m.
The festival has a detailed list of COVID-19 guidelines for members of the public, which includes a request that unvaccinated attendees and children under 12 wear face masks at all times. Visit barbesinthewoods.com or facebook.com/barbesinthewoods for updates. Tickets can be ordered at barbesinthewoods.com; prices are $ 55 for adults, $ 25 for adults in Montague, $ 15 for children 6 to 17, and free for children 5 and under.
Steve Pfarrer can be reached at [email protected]