The cultural highlights in our region this weekend include stars of Afropop, art-rock, New Orleans funk, opera, and a whole lot more.
Five-time Grammy Award-winning a cappella ensemble Ladysmith Black Mambazo first gained international attention via its participation in Paul Simon's landmark "Graceland" album and tour. Subsequently, the group was named South Africa's Cultural Ambassadors to the world by Nelson Mandela. Ladysmith brings its unique South African-style choral music to the Colonial Theater in Pittsfield, Mass., tonight at 8.
Founded in Montreal in the early 1990s, Godspeed You! Black Emperor plays a unique blend of classical minimalism and post-rock that conjures up a kind of ecstatic trance state. The group brings its soaring crescendos to MASS MoCA in North Adams, Mass., in a multimedia concert on Saturday at 8 p.m.
Rene Lopez inherited a rich modern Latin music tradition from his father, renowned salsa musician Rene Lopez, Sr., but over the past 20 years he has built a legacy of his own, blurring lines between funk, hip-hop, rock, jazz, EDM, and pop. The singer and multi-instrumentalist brings his self-styled electric Latin soul to the Barn at the Egremont Village Inn in South Egremont, Mass., on Saturday, at 8 p.m.
Hudson Valley-based instrumental quartet NEQ brings its unique blend of original compositions, improvisations, and renditions of classic rock and jazz tunes to Spencertown Academy in Spencertown, N.Y., on Saturday, at 7:30 p.m. NEQ plays rock, Americana, Afro-Cuban, classical, funk, and ethnic grooves -- original music as well as instrumental arrangements of popular covers, drawn from rock, pop, Latin jazz, and classical.
Visionary art-rocker and legendary Talking Heads frontman David Byrne brings his new, 12-piece band - featuring Hudson Valley soul singer Simi Stone - to UPAC in Kingston on Saturday at 8 p.m, to perform a retrospective of his 40-year music career, including Talking Heads favorites plus tunes from his terrific new album, "American Utopia." This concert sold out in advance almost completely to Bardavon members, proving membership really does have its privileges.
Operas by Stravinsky, John Harbison, and Ana Sokolovic will be given full stagings by singers from the Graduate Vocal Arts Program accompanied by the Bard College Conservatory Orchestra tonight at 7:30 and Sunday at 3 p.m. in the Fisher Center at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y. Directed by Alison Moritz, the program presents a triple bill of operatic rarities exploring the rites and rituals of marriage, including Pulcinella by Igor Stravinsky, Full Moon in March by John Harbison, and Svadba by Ana Sokolovic.
Also for opera lovers, sopranos Shelley Roberts, Nellie Rustick, and Julie Rumbold will perform solos, duets, and trios in "Opera Notte: The Three Sopranos" at the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield, Mass., on Saturday at 8 p.m.
New Orleans funk-jam outfit Dumpstaphunk - featuring two members of the first family of New Orleans funk, the Nevilles - brings its deep grooves and soulful melodies to Club Helsinki Hudson on Saturday at 9 p.m. Founded by keyboardist Ivan Neville - son of famed vocalist Aaron Neville and himself a member of the Neville Brothers band - Dumpstaphunk includes his cousin Ian Neville on guitar and a who’s who of New Orleans funk talent.
Authors Kem Joy Ukwu, Celia Bland, and William Lessard will read from their works at Spotty Dog Books & Ale in Hudson, on Saturday at 7 p.m., as part of Volume, the free monthly reading and music series every second Saturday of the month. The readings will be followed by book-signing and a DJ set by Andy French. Kem Joy Ukwu's short story collection, "Locked Gray / Linked Blue", was a finalist for the New American Fiction Prize. Celia Bland is the author of "Madonna Comix," a poetry and visual art book created in collaboration with Dianne Kornberg.
William Lessard's writing has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney's, FANZINE, Prelude, Hyperallergic, PANK, Brooklyn Rail, and Heavy Feather Review.
Seth Rogovoy is editor of Berkishire Daily and the Rogovoy Report, available online at rogovoyreport.com