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‘Creole Carnival’ comes to Eisenhower Auditorium

Carnival celebrations may be over now worldwide, but Globalfest on the Road’s concert version will get the party going again, as the Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presents “Creole Carnival” on Feb. 25 at Eisenhower Auditorium.

The “Creole Carnival” concert — featuring musicians from Brazil, Haiti and Jamaica — begins with the foundations of African music, adds a fusion of sounds from the Americas and wraps it in the globally celebrated pre-Lenten festival. The concert includes Brazilian samba band Casuarina, singer-songwriter Emeline Michel, of Haiti, and blues singer-guitarist Brushy One String from Jamaica.

During the past decade, Globalfest has grown from a New York City festival/showcase into a nonprofit service organization for curators, artists and the performing arts field. Globalfest on the Road takes creatively programmed artist lineups to venues throughout the United States.

Singer-songwriter Michel, known as the “queen of Haitian song,” has recorded and performed on stages throughout the Caribbean, Europe and the Americas for more than two decades. Beloved by Haitians for merging traditional rhythms with social and political content, Michel sings in both French and Haitian Creole.

Read more here: in Gonaïves, Haiti, Michel has been called “the Joni Mitchell of Haiti.” Her songs merge native Haitian music with jazz, pop, bossa nova and samba.

Church was where it all began for Michel, who became the official singer for the choir at 13 years old.

“I grew up in a very religious family,” she said. “There were no negotiations possible on the Sunday Mass, so I had to go to church and hang tight while I waited for the choir — to indulge myself in melody, soaked in faithful lyrics,” she said. “That was my only consolation after the long sermons.”

Later, Michel discovered the power of the traditional music and dance of her country, and much later the beauty and freedom of jazz. The Detroit Jazz Center was her first music school out of Haiti, adding to her musical influences. Her repertoire on stage varies from troubadour/hardcore rara and heartfelt a capella, to guitar and vocal folk songs.

“I am able to tailor my repertoire to the pulse of my audience,” she said. “If they want to listen or be up dancing, I will read into it and keep it flexible.”

Michel’s new album “Quintessence” is her 10th release and has a unique blend of spirited songs, bathed in folk and acoustic jazz.

What Michel believes she brings to the music world that is truly unique are her eclectic blends, her background and herself as a human being. “I strongly believe that music can truly reunite us, heal us and open up our eyes with compassion for each other,” she said. “Everyone is unique — and I trust my contribution is unique.”

“Creole Carnival” demonstrates how each country has its own traditions of music, dancing and costumes. Globalfest’s artists explore, expand and upend notions of Carnival without losing sight of where magic and religious fervor intersect with soiree.

“Carnival in my country is the event where all barriers fall down — we are all mixed together, under the umbrella of music, fun and totally letting go,” Michel said. “Given that we are three countries with strong culture of Carnival, I have great anticipation that it will be a fantastic way for the audience to travel in the heart of the winter in songs and dance.”

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