Belly dancing to Radiohead

By City Pulse Staff
Lansing-based band Wisaal. Courtesy photo.

Loft show highlights local musicians, global influences

Wednesday, Aug. 28 — The Lansing area is rich in musical talent that reaches beyond Western confines of classical, jazz, folk and rock, often combining many of the above with an exotic flavor from non-Western cultures.

The smorgasbord will be open when Fusion Shows presents an evening of eclectic world music Friday at the Loft.

Lansing Mediterranean fusion group Wisaal will headline the show. Also performing that evening are Karma Bellydance, Karisa Wilson and Kim Vi and the Siblings.

Wisaal blends music of the Arabic world with Klezmer, jazz, and Indian influences.

Group leader Igor Houwat, who is half Brazilian and half Lebanese, was raised mostly in Lebanon before attending a music conservatory in France and finally landing at MSU, where he earned degrees in saxophone performance and musicology.

Near the end of his studies at MSU, Houwat took up the oud (pronounced “ow-oood”), a Middle Eastern lute with a spacious, low, melancholy sound that seems to come from the bottom of a well.

“I was looking for a way to reconnect with the music I grew up with,” recounts Houwat, “The oud was my window back into that world.”

Soon after, Houwat founded Wisaal with a group of like-minded MSU music students. “It’s great to have an outlet for this type of music,” Wisaal percussionist Mike List said. “It’s one thing to study this music academically, but performing it in context is a really great experience.”

Belly dance group Karma wants to bring its art to a wider audience by dancing to contemporary world music and western popular music.

“We perform to everything from Radiohead to more traditional Middle Eastern music and we do it in settings where you don’t expect to see belly dancers, like concert venues and sporting events,” the group’s leader, Sheila Bauer, explained. “It gives us a great opportunity to reach people that would normally never be exposed to belly dance and hopefully turn them into life-long fans.”

Karisa Wilson, a Grand Rapids-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist, blends American folk music with global influences. “One cultural group dominating in any area, especially the arts, weakens quality,” she explained. “There's something rich and beautiful to be found, however different, in every culture and reflected in its music. I think our lives are richer for exposure to these beauties.”

Wilson recently recorded an album with children at an orphanage in Uganda to raise money for the orphanage.

Kim Vi and the Siblings is fronted by first generation Vietnamese-American Kim Vi. Reconnecting with his Vietnamese heritage has been a key part of Vi’s development as a musician. “My father is from Hanoi and writes music that reflects Vietnamese culture,” he said. “Hearing my dad play these ‘rootsy’ pieces has definitely impacted my songwriting. Moreover, being exposed to Vietnamese culture has piqued my interest in traditional music of other cultures as well.”

The Loft

414 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing

Friday, Aug. 30

Doors at 8pm

Tickets start at $8

All Ages Welcome