By Earle Hitchner
Well before "world music" became a marketing concept and then a cliché, a not for-profit organization sprung up in New York City to better serve its musical melting pot as well as those committed to or curious about sounds outside the mainstream.
That organization is the World Music Institute, founded in 1985 and now recognized as the premier outlet in the U.S. for music from around the world. By the time the 1999-2000 season concludes, WMI will have presented more than 1,000 concerts since its inception. A number of them were given by such Irish artists as Altan, Solas, Lúnasa, Martin Hayes and Dennis Cahill, Liam O’Flynn, Patrick Street, the Green Fields of America, and Cherish the Ladies.
To mark WMI’s 15th anniversary, a gala benefit concert will take place this Saturday in midtown Manhattan, with all proceeds to go to WMI. Because less than half of the money needed to produce concerts comes from ticket sales, the organization depends heavily on various grants and individual donors for its survival.
The diversity of scheduled performers reflects the musical diversity at the heart of WMI. They include Indian tabla player Zakir Hussain, who’s performed with Van Morrison; Andy Statman, a virtuoso on clarinet and mandolin in the disparate fields of klezmer and bluegrass, who’s performed with De Dannan; frame drummer Glen Velez; Indian violinist Shankar, who’s played with John McLaughlin’s Shakti; Simon Shaheen, a leading Arab ‘ud (lute) player, and Moroccan musician Hassan Hakmoun, who’s toured with Peter Gabriel. Musical director for the evening will be David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet.
The Feb. 5 benefit concert will be at Town Hall, 123 W. 43rd St., beginning at 8 p.m. Further information, call (212) 545-7536 or (212)840-2824.
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