World Music Festival brings jazz and Ghanian drums to Silver Spring

Trumpet Silhouette in Kente patternSILVER SPRING — Jazz bands shared the stage with African percussionists and Japanese dance troupes, while artisans displayed work that traveled across the Atlantic, at the World Music Festival Sunday in Silver Spring.

The festival highlighted the diverse culture of the D.C. area, with musical performances, food, and artisans. One vendor, Jean-Jacques from, specialized in African art and clothing imported from the West African country of Togo. His wares are handmade by ten different artists in Togo with local fabrics and dyes, according to Jacques.

A popular product in GlobalBatik’s catalog is Batik shirts, according to Jacques. Many of his shirts feature bright, vibrant colors and West African themes and symbols.

“You can fit any kind of story that is related to Africa. In this case, I used an Adrinka symbol, which are visual symbols that usually represent words of wisdom,” said Jacques. “Or this T-shirt here, I put a map of the continent with all the lines representing the main rivers.”

Modern symbols, such as imagery from the Marvel movie “Black Panther,” had a presence among Jacques’s shirts as well. The designs being placed on non-traditional items, such as tank tops, further showed the mix of old and new that Jacques cultivated.

“One time we put an alphabet on a T-shirt from a tribe from Mali. Another time we put symbols that represented kings from Benin,” said Jacques.

Jazz band Dial 251 kicked off the musical portion of the day, with an Art Blakey-inspired hard-bop style, a form of jazz heavily influenced by R&B music. Their cover of Freddie Hubbard’s “Keep your Soul Together” from his 1973 album of the same name, showed off the band’s strengths. Bassist Jerry Del Rosso and drummer Greg Reaves held down a great beat for the band to play over.

The solo of Charles Whalen, trumpet player and bandleader, had a great mix of fast runs and long drawn-out notes, along with inventive intervallic jumps, in which he would play two notes vastly different in timbre. The band played to the crowd well by performing a jazz sextet version of the “Game of Thrones” theme, with Whalen and saxophonist Bryan McEntire playing the melody. The band used the song to quote the classic song “My Favorite Things,” made famous in jazz by John Coltrane.

“It’s all in the moment, whatever feels right at that time. Like most jazz musicians, you think about it after the fact and think geez, I would have done something different, but that’s the beauty of it, it happens, and then you go and do something differently next time,” said Whalen.

Ghanaian percussionist Nana Frimpong brought his own brand of virtuosity to the festival. His show featured a multitude of percussion instruments, imbuing his set with a variety of tones. He went from the kalimba, a bright, ethereal harp-like instrument played with the musician’s thumbs, to the djembe, a large, darker hand drum. Playing on the kalimba centered around polyrhythms, as Frimpong performed two rhythms at the same time, one with his left hand and one with his right, to accompany his vocals.

“The roots of jazz are in Africa,” said Frimpong. “So I’m taking African music to another level by fusing African and Western instruments together using jazz.”



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