Rhythm Foundation opening night party

Ballake Sissoko and Vincent Segal play a cross-continental groove

Here in the world’s glittery party ghetto, even the avant-garde – and the high-garde and those simply angling for an audience –  get festive in the cause of culture. The last week has seen a host of parties as arts groups kick off their seasons, gathering friends and cranking up anticipation.

On Friday the Rhythm Foundation, longtime purveyors of hip, fusion-oriented world music, launched their 24th season at the Little Haiti Cultural Center, my fave new venue in the center of the city (which is also my hood). There are galleries, kids classes, a resident dance company, excellent theater space, free events, friendly people, heartfelt community mission). The Rhythm Foundation crowd spans the gamut from Colombian and Argentine 20-something alt-Latin music fans to 60-something Afrobeat lovers, musicians and artists, accountants and activists, many of whom have been going to RF shows for years. So the party of about 150 felt like a very Miami village.

The centerpiece was a vintage RF performance, by Malian kora player Ballake Sissoko and French cellist Vincent Segal, playing a delicate, magical, indefinable global chamber music. They were light and dark. Sissoko, the African, was in gold and white, and his kora, a kind of harp made from an enormous gourd, was also pale gold shining with silver studs. Segal, the white European, had a dark grey suit and the dark wood cello. The kora sounds shimmery and silvery, the cello dark and rich. Segal and Sissoko are both virtuosos, and they made a spellbinding, fluid, delicate, trancelike river of music. Afterwards they signed CD’s for a long line of admiring partygoers. “The reason I chose the cello was because the teacher was really cool,” Segal told one couple. In his hands, it still is.

The Rhythm Foundation season continues with HIT Week, a new take on Italian music Oct. 14 to 16 at PAX Miami and Grand Central, with electronic and alternative acts that sound nothing like the sentimental bellowing you think of (if you think of it, which you probably don’t) old school Italian pop. And if you haven’t yet, check out the perfectly named Big Night in Little Haiti, which turns the Little Haiti Cultural Center into a bubbling street party the third Friday of every month, with irresistibly danceable Haitian music, food, gallery exhibits, and kids activities, all for free. This month’s edition is Oct. 21st, with BelO, a rising star from Haiti.


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