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Africa's Influence on World Music: A Conversation with Savannah Music Festival's Rob Gibson

(Top, L-R): Hermeto Pascoal, Danilo Brito, (Bottom, L-R): Chouk Bwa Libète, Leyla McCalla.

Rob Gibson is well known in his role as Savannah Music Festival executive and artistic director. But before coming to Savannah, while running Jazz at Lincoln Center, he taught Music History at The Juilliard School in New York. He joined us to talk about Africa’s influence on world music, including the work of some performers coming to the 2017 festival.

“One of the things Savannah Music Festival has always been interested in is the migration of peoples and musics,” Gibson said. “And the trans-Atlantic slave trade is obviously one of the most important events that occurred in the last six hundred years in the history of our world with displacing people and thus musics as well. The largest importer of slaves was the country of Brazil. Forty percent of the transatlantic slave trade went to this one country. And the musics that emerged in Brazil are some of the most extraordinary. They are a great mix of the indigenous people, the European people, and the African peoples. We’re bringing a fantastic concert with two extraordinary musicians from Brazil: Danilo Brito and Hermeto Pascoal.”

That concert, titled Masters of Brazilian Music happens Wednesday, April 5 at 7:30 p.m. at Lucas Theatre for the Arts. Click here for more information about that performance.

“The most African sounding group that we have at the festival is the Haitian group, Chouk Bwa Libète,” Gibson continued. “Ninety-five percent of the population of Haiti is Afro-Haitian. Most of the slaves who were brought to Haiti were stretching from Senegal down to the Congo, and that happened over the course of several hundred years, but they were brought by French people. The Spanish came to Haiti a little bit on the other side of the island, but Haiti was a French colony. This music is so unique. A lot of people wouldn’t know that it is Haitian. They would hear it as African. It’s very, very percussive.”

Chouk Bwa Libète will perform on a double-bill with Haitian American strings player, Leyla McCalla, on Monday, March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Charles H. Morris Center. Click here for more information and to see videos of these performers.

You can find out more about these artists and check out the entire concert lineup of the 2017 Savannah Music Festival at

And hear more of our conversation with Rob Gibson in the audio link below.

Note: The music that underscores the broadcast of the story is “Perambulando” by Danilo Brito from the album of the same name and “Olicha legba” by Chouk Bwa Libète from their album, Se nou ki la !.