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Everybody likes to be in the know. Had you been at Global Union in 2006, you could have told all your friends that you saw Rodrigo y Gabriela before they were packing seats at the Pabst. Yep, they made their debut at Global Union. All summer we’ve been spoiled with a slew of free outdoor […]

Everybody likes to be in the know. Had you been at Global Union in 2006, you could have told all your friends that you saw Rodrigo y Gabriela before they were packing seats at the Pabst. Yep, they made their debut at Global Union.

All summer we’ve been spoiled with a slew of free outdoor concerts, but the most unique performances are yet to come. For the fifth year in a row, Alverno is presenting its free outdoor music festival Global Union Sept. 25 and 26 (rain or shine) in Bay View’s Humboldt Park. Global Union brings some of the world’s most-talented emerging artists to Milwaukee, so we can say we knew them first.

“We need to utilize the outdoor performance space and really have to be doing stuff that makes people dance,” says David Ravel, director of Alverno Presents. And dance you will, whether you understand the lyrics or not.

At this year’s Global Union, there will be six new global musicians and added amenities such as international food/beverage purveyors and local arts and crafts. Come pre-show and stick around post for entertainment from WMSE DJs, too.

And this year, it’s truly a festival for the people, made by the people. For the first time, Alverno solicited individual donations because of decreased corporate and foundation support. Using a social fundraising site called Kickstart to collect donations online and create buzz, Alverno set out to raise $15,000 over a 45-day period. A $10 gift capped off that goal at the eleventh hour, allowing for a $15,000 match from Direct Supply, Rishi Tea, Café Centraal, Lightburn Design, Bob and Pam Klein and Julilly Kohler. “We always said this festival was about community building, but this is very tangible evidence that we are having the response we thought we would,” Ravel says.

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Global Union attracts anywhere from 5,000 to 10,000 people, contingent upon the unpredictable Wisconsin weather. Check out the diverse lineup:

Sat., Sept. 25

1 p.m. – Mahala Rai Banda Wild gypsy brass from the Romanian suburbs That might require a little more explanation if you don’t know much about traditional Romanian music. It’s 11 musicians mixing pop, punk, rumba and reggae to create a Gypsy Kings-esque sound. There will be the familiar accordion, true to Milwaukee’s polka roots, and horns, lots of horns!

2:30 p.m. – Joan Soriano “El Duque de la Bachata” – As the “Duke” of the musical style and dance called Bachata, Soriano sings of love and longing while strumming on his steel string guitar. The result is actually more soothing than you’d expect, but his sound has been compared to the upbeat stylings of Robert Randolph.  

4 p.m. – Debo Band with special guests Fendika Ethiopian jam band funk – Debo Band is an 11-piece groove collective that explores the unique sounds that once filled dance clubs of 1970s Ethiopia. For this performance, Debo Band brings Ethiopia-based Fendika – which includes a singer, drummer and two dancers. Two of Africa’s best bands come together to throw down the funk. What more do you need?

Sun., Sept 26

1 p.m. – Delhi 2 Dublin Bhangra meets Celtic with a dash of dub reggae + electronica – Say what? Vancouver-based Delhi 2 Dublin is a group of five musicians who mash up electronica, Punjabi-based Bhangra, Celtic and Reggae Dub beats. Fusing Eastern instruments like the tabla, dhol and electric sitar with the Celtic fiddle and Bhangra vocals, you just have to hear it to believe that it actually works. Brush up on your Bollywood moves now.

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2:30 p.m. – Meklit Hadero Rising star and TED global fellow, Meklit’s voice is reminiscent of Joni Mitchell or Nina Simone. Her vibe is jazzy folk, and her lyrics are spellbinding. Based in San Francisco, but Ethiopian-born, Meklit uses her guitar to accompany her broad vocal range.

4 p.m. – La Excelencia Salsa Dura, Salsa de Verdad, Salsa de Nueva York – The La Excelencia is a 12-piece salsa orchestra that formed in Queens, Brooklyn and the South Bronx with members hailing from Cuba, Puerto Rico and South America. Salsa dura, or hard salsa, is the new generation of the popular Latin genre of song and dance with a stark spin that voices social concerns.

So how does Alverno find all of these amazing artists? Surprisingly, Ravel says, “We just take two days and watch a bunch of YouTube videos.” While selecting, they make sure all the continents are equally represented and that they are debuting artists new to Milwaukee and the Midwest.

Although he won’t reveal this year’s most anticipated performer, Ravel claims “I want bragging rights as the one who brought her here first,” as he speaks of Meklit Hadero. So, your best bet is to just hang around, check out all the acts, and when they become super famous, you can say you saw them first at Global Union in good ol’ Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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