Met Picks

Fest Bests

Giant Magnet pulls you in.

By Steve Wiecking May 15, 2009

Sidi Goma dresses for success. (photo courtesy Lois Greenfield)

Some quick hits from Giant Magnet. No, you don’t have to be a kid to enjoy the festival but, yes, take any kids willing to share your company.

Eleven musicians, Africans who’ve embraced the Muslim faith in India, enter barefoot and all in white as they arrange themselves in a semi-circle on stage. A main vocalist leads call-and-response type songs set to the steadily building beat of their drums and other traditional instruments. One by one, each performer moves into the center of the circle to dance. For the show’s climax, the troupe reenters with painted faces, their headdresses and skirts magnificently adorned with peacock feathers. The swell of the drumming reaches it height when—no kidding—one of the dancers tosses a coconut high into the air and lets it break on his head. This is music as ecstatic communal transcendence. They’re around all weekend, but don’t miss their co-bill with Thomas Mapfumo, Zimbabwe’s folk icon, tonight, May 15 at 7:30 at the Bagley Wright.

Three young African Americans share roots music of North Carolina for bouncing, foot-stomping joy that old-timers taught them how to convey. You’ll hear banjo, fiddle, mouth harp, snare drum, and even a guy with big white gloves who uses his body as percussion, slapping his hands across his large frame in a kind of tap dance.

They perform Bunraku, black light puppetry for The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Other Eric Carle Favourites. Glow-in-the-dark clouds seem to float and shower the stage with dazzling raindrops. It’s a calm, colorful Disney ride, like being on happy hallucinogens. Any child will love this.

A Moisture Festival vet, Germany’s goofy Hacki Glinda wears a black kilt, tuxedo tails, glasses, and a bowler for lighthearted, lowbrow clowning. Don’t take the lowbrow label the wrong way—it’s just a challenge to describe someone with a gift for spitting a ball against a far wall and catching it again in his mouth on the bounce back. His guests include a guy who blows bubbles inside bubbles filled with smoke.

They look like absurdist monks or perhaps escaped inmates and act with the befuddled aplomb of silent film comedians. The troupe communicates in amusing grunts, chants, and even harmonized yodels while attempting to navigate a world dominated by tall, wide wooden pillars on which they often find themselves precariously—and rather amazingly—perched, lost wanderers on a house of cards. Their physical antics are so naturally daffy and deft that you accept them as the oddball wonders of an alternate universe. Best of many great bits: The guys form a band, but when the drummer gets out of hand they spread his kit all over the stage—which he then plays by throwing drumsticks at his musical targets with a samurai’s precision.

The weather’s supposed to nice this weekend, and the festival has fun things—hula hoops and the like—to keep kids engaged outdoors in between the shows. Here’s the schedule.

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