Sunday, November 16, 2008

Support Your Local Internationalists!

It’s been less than two weeks since the election and I’m already seeing an indication that the election of Barack Obama will have an impact on the prospects of more world music artists for touring the States. The agent calls are starting to come in...

Some higher profile artists like Youssou N’Dour have expressly avoided U.S. tours over the last few years as a form of protest to the Bush administration. Not only does the election represent a regime change, it has been widely perceived internationally as a major and welcome ideological shift in the government of the United States.

This is great news for The Cedar and the potential for furthering our core mission. But it also raises some issues that I’d like to bring to light which come with such opportunities. Primarily, as touring international artists have become more expensive, The Cedar has lagged behind in finding increased support for booking these artists.

If you’re a loyal reader to this blog, you’ve already seen Mama E. Dub’s previous post about the challenges of international visas for performing artists. Having procured work visas for the hundreds of artists that have come to our Nordic Roots Festival over its 10 years, I can tell you that the biggest challenge has been the increased costs. When you add higher travel expenses and the decline of the U.S. dollar, the upward pressures on international performer fees have been enormous for the past few years.

We face even larger challenges by being located in a market that’s isolated from other major markets for national tours. International performers will often just tour in the northeastern U.S., or along the west coast, where many markets can be reached in successive days via ground transportation. We often don’t even have the opportunity to book an artist unless they stop in Chicago, still not exactly an easy day’s drive from here.

So when the opportunity arises, the fees are understandably often quite steep. For The Cedar to take advantage of more opportunities, we have to find a way to get more folks to come to the shows, and find other sources of support for this programming, such as corporate sponsorship, or program-specific grants. (Outside of our annual Roots Festival, The Cedar receives virtually no program-specific funding).

Let's start with what's already on the books. Next month, The Cedar is but one of six cities outside of New York to have the opportunity to present, along with our partners at Walker Art Center, one of the hippest acts on the world music circuit, Kassin +2 from Brazil. From their MySpace page:

Kassin + 2 is the new portrait of Rio’s rich musical, cultural and ethnic diversity. The final part in the + 2 trilogy — fellow band members Moreno Veloso and Domenico Lancellotti were the featured names for the first two releases — Futurismo is as Carioca as Havianas, Caiprinhas and the ability to spend all day on the beach without getting any sand on your sarong. “When I make an album, I want it to be able to sit happily inside my record collection,” says Kassin, a Rio native who has been digging for vinyl gold all of his life. "Futurismo is like a collection inside a collection. It represents my tastes and my world.”

This is going to be a good one... so please help us get folks out to come see it. It's the surest way to enable us to book a lot more excellent world music artists in 2009.

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