It’s rare that art and commerce dovetail as well as they do Globalfest, which marked its fifth anniversary in Gotham on Sunday night. The summit grew out of the annual Arts Presenters Conference, a draw for world music acts from thousands of miles away. To ease the discomfort of having their tires kicked — metaphorically speaking, that is — the organizers moved the de facto audition process from the sterility of scattered hotel conference rooms to a single downtown nightspot, launching what’s become the hottest program in one of the more barren stretches of the Big Apple concert calendar.
For this edition, the fest moved to Webster Hall, where a dozen acts were spread across three performance spaces — with set times staggered enough to allow maximum exposure for each. Utilizing three ballrooms of varying size also allowed a good match of performer to space — with introspective participants given the chance to shine in the intimate Downtown Room and more boisterous types afforded plenty of room to move in the Ballroom.
The former group offered some lovely interludes, the most poignant of which were provided by a gently percussive group led by Argentine accordionist Chango Spasiuk, a purveyor of chamame — a dark, folk-tinged genre far removed from the country’s more regularly exported tango. Also, Samarabalouf, a trio that uses its gypsy jazz roots as a foundation for a latticework structure of Belle and Sebastian-esque acoustic playing and urbanely swinging dance rhythms.
Vinicio Capossela, who’s often been tagged as “the Italian Tom Waits,” delivered a dizzyingly diverse set that touched down in territory that would back up that description, but only briefly. With theatrical agitation, the singer lunged manically through dark, percussive rock, Sun Ra-inspired astro-jazz and a wine-soaked stream of art-punk that wouldn’t have been out of place in Max’s Kansas City circa 1979.
The evening’s biggest eureka moment, however, came courtesy of the Korean ensemble Dulsori, which was making its stateside bow. From an opening number that found its members playing all surfaces of three wildly oversized bass drums that dwarfed them, the septet veered between keening traditional folk and neo-psychedelic, harp-based jams. Theirs was a revelatory performance, proof that it’s still possible to find something new under the sun.