Thirteen is a number considered by many to be unlucky, but the organizers of the 13th-annual Heineken TransAtlantic Festival see themselves as incredibly fortunate.
When this world music-focused fest was launched in 2003, it seemed unlikely that a decade-plus run lay ahead. But as Rhythm Foundation director Laura Quinlan explains, there was hope and opportunity, as youthful, creative types began flooding Miami.
“People were coming here forming bands, opening galleries, and we wanted to create an event for them,” Quinlan says. “Our audience before this festival was older and not as reflective of our vibrant, young city. It has challenged us to find new collaborators and sounds that keep us relevant.”
The idea was to curate a musical potpourri that mixed and matched the ethnicities, cultures, and artistic traditions of every land touching the Atlantic Ocean, from the U.S., Caribbean, and Latin America to Europe and Africa.
“We try to get musicians with the spirit of travel and exploration,” Quinlan points out. “What unites the bands is a multicultural foundation. A perfect example from this year is Ana Tijoux. She’s a Chilean MC with a live band who grew up in Paris.”
Noted for her ability to mix singing with rapping in a single song, Tijoux has been compared favorably to Lauryn Hill. Yet she is also like no one else: a fiery, unique presence on the mic. And just last year, her collaboration with Jorge Drexler, “Universos Paralelos,” was nominated for Song of the Year at the Latin Grammys.
Another Latin American act on the TransAtlantic Festival's 2015 roster is Puerto Candelaria, a six-man Columbian cumbia group straight out of Medellin, embarking on only its second-ever tour of the United States.
Closer to home are brother and sister Elliot and Natalie Bergman of Wild Belle, who Quinlan describes as “based in Brooklyn, but playing world music with roots in Afro-pop.” The siblings named their debut album Isles because they aspired for each of the songs to be its own individual island of individuality, influenced by styles ranging from reggae to soul to jazz.
A second group of New Yorkers, the Budos Band, will be making the trip to TransAtlantic too. This self-described “Staten Island instrumental afro-soul” crew is a nine-piece collective that also packs blasts of psychedelia, fusion, and funk into each and every show.
However, while always luring headliners from across the globe, the Rhythm Foundation's fest has also remained dedicated to showcasing local acts. And this year is no different, as two Miami bands — Bluejay and My Deer — aspire to bring South Florida’s eclecticism to the TransAtlantic stage.
Held April 10 and 11 at the North Beach Bandshell, the organizers knew with the last several years' boom in Miami music festivals that they had to step up their game to make their own event stand out — and ensure another 13-year run.
“We’ve always been a great open-air festival right next to the beach. But this year we’re adding new elements,” Quinlan says. “We’re going to have two lounges with interactive experiences and we’re trying to be more eco-friendly by not having any plastic. There’s also going to be cool vendors.”
But even amid a fast-changing South Florida festival scene and TransAtlantic's own need to evolve, the Rhythm Foundation director and her crew are thrilled to be putting another festival together. “It’s a puzzle of moving parts to get a selection of artists from the Atlantic rim,” she beams, invigorated by the challenge of it all.
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And numerologists be damned — here’s hoping the thirteenth time will be as charmed as the last twelve.
Heineken TransAtlantic Festival 2015. With Wild Belle, Budos Band, Ana Tijoux, Puerto Candelaria, My Deer, and Bluejay. Presented by the Rhythm Foundation. Friday and Saturday, April 10 and 11, at North Beach Bandshell, 7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach. Single-day tickets cost $15 plus fees and two-day passes cost $27 plus fees via flavourus.com. All ages. Visit transatlanticfestival.com.