MIMFest Offers Prime Chance for Global Musical Tourism

The Musical Instrument Museum gathers a vast collection of the world's music under one roof. And when it throws a music festival, it brings musicians from all over the world and spreads the noise over multiple stages for a weekend that will expose Phoenix residents to an incredibly diverse range of genres.

Performing at MIMFest, which happens this Saturday, October 18, and Sunday, October 19, at the museum grounds, are the Mali-born, Grammy-nominated Bassekou Kouyate, one of the world's foremost players of an African lute known as the ngoni, and Latin jazz great Poncho Sanchez. Traditional string duo Billy Strings and Don Julin are also on the bill, as are Tex-Mex pioneers Max Baca & Flaco Jimenez. That's four vastly different styles of music, and those are just four of the 17 acts scheduled for the weekend.

"We have designed it to be really fun-filled, music-filled two days that reflect the mission and passion of the museum," says Lowell Pickett, the music theater's artistic director.

The music takes place on three stages -- two outside and one inside the museum's acoustically gorgeous theater. In adidition, there will be more than a dozen food trucks and entertainers such as hula dancers, taiko drummers, stilt walkers, and more. There will also be a kid's area, where performers, crafts, and other entertainment will keep the little ones occupied.

One of the performers coming to the festival is Nachito Herrera, a classically trained pianist whose music is an amalgam of Cuban music and traditional jazz. A musical prodigy as a child, Herrera performed Rachmaninoff's Concerto No. 2 with the Havana Symphony Orchestra at just 12 years old. He began studying jazz with piano master Chucho Valdés just a few years later, and now, and by the late '90s, he had become the music director, pianist, and arranger for the group Cubanismo.

In concert, his hands dart over the keys in a dazzling display of technique and feeling -- an ability Herrera attributes to having both classical and jazz training.

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"It's always exciting to prove physically to people how well a combination you can make when you get that really good classical foundation and turn it into something different entirely," he says. "Everything has to come together entirely. The more better technique you have, the more better control of the instrument you have. ... I am so glad I was able to study classical piano back in Cuba. ... It's given me the opportunuity to explore other worlds."

Another performer, Ani Cordero, was a founding member of the Latin rock group Pistolera. Her latest project, Recordar, finds her covering and re-interpreting protests songs of Central and South America, and she will perform some of them at the festival on Saturday.

"They represent a period in Latin American and Caribbean history when the political climate was a bit difficult," she told NPR about the project.

"She's sort of re-imagining those for a younger generation," Pickett says.

Pickett says to keep an eye out for Davina & the Vagabonds, who play Sunday. Singer Davina Sowers has a voice like Amy Winehouse and the sensibilities of a modern Etta James, and Pickett says she's been bringing down the house everywhere her band has performed this year.

Visit the next page for a complete schedule.

MIMFest takes place Saturday, October 18, and Sunday, October 19. Tickets for adults (that include admission to the museum) are $38 for one day, $71 for both. For children they are $20 and $35, and for teens they are $29 and $53. Tickets for just the festival for adults are $30 for one day and $55 for both, for teens they are $20 and $35, and for children they are $15 and $25.

MIMFest schedule

Saturday, October 18 APS Stage 10:30 a.m.: Socks in the Frying Pan 12:10 p.m.: Traveler 1:50 p.m.: Sergio Mendoza y la Orkesta 3:50 p.m.: Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba

New Times Stage 11:20 a.m.: Baraka Moon 1 p.m.: Muskellunge 2:50 p.m.: La Santa Cecilia

MIM Music Theater 11:30: p.m. Nachito Herrera 1 p.m.: Ani Cordero 2:40 p.m.: Nachito Herrera

Sunday, October 19 APS Stage 10:30 a.m.: Los Texmaniacs with Flaco Jiménez 12:20 p.m.: Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba 1:50 p.m.: Poncho Sanchez 3:50 p.m.: Davina & the Vagabonds

New Times Stage 11:20 a.m.: Krar Collective 1 p.m.: Billy Strings and Don Julin 2:50 p.m.: Heritage Blues Orchestra

MIM Music Theater 11:30 a.m.: Socks in the Frying Pan 1 p.m.: Max Baca & Flaco Jiménez 2:40 p.m.: Max Baca & Flaco Jiménez

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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