The Harlem Arts Alliance is holding its first International Arts Festival on March 19 at the Hip Hop Culture Center in Harlem. The event will feature musical performances and fine art exhibitions from artists around the globe followed by an after party fueled by international dance music.
Harlem-bred, Haitian-American jazz artist Pauline Jean is slated to perform at the landmark event. Still reeling from the impact of the massive earthquake that hit Haiti–her family suffered six fatalities–Jean has found the time to perform in the midst of sending supplies and prayers to her family members in Haiti.
The graceful crooner counts many legends among her influences, inspirations. “I just love Nina Simone, Sara Vaughn and Haitian folksinger and activist Annette Auguste. I really just listen anybody who has the ability to touch my heart. I have all kinds of people in my iPod, like James Brown, Beyonce and Mary J. Blige,” said Jean in an interview with the AmNews.
Jean loves to sing old spirituals such as “I Want Jesus to Walk with Me,” but for the Harlem Arts Alliance event, she will sing a traditional Haitian folk song called “Wongolo.” Jean said she will likely forgo her usual glitzy gowns for more traditional Haitian attire.
Representing the Far East, Japanese gospel singer Taeko is also on the performance roster. The Osaka native was introduced to soul music and gospel songs via movies such as “Sister Act.”
Taeko sings in English, but is unable to communicate in English. Through her translator, she told the AmNews that some of her musical influences are Yolanda Adams, Diana Ross and Patti LaBelle.
“My favorite song to sing is ‘Never Give Up’ by Yolanda Adams,” said Taeko through her translator. For the international event, Taeko will sing “We Shall Overcome,” “Over the Rainbow” and a traditional Japanese folk song.
Other musicians and visual artists slated to perform at the inaugural affair represent Honduras, parts of Africa and, of course, Harlem.
“We tend to see cultural expression as inclusive and look forward to exploring the way that Harlem’s culture has been shared throughout the world in food, dance and fashion as well as through the more traditionally perceived visual and performing arts,” said Harlem Arts Alliance Executive Director Michael Unthank.
Tickets for the first International Arts Festival are $25 ($20 for Harlem Arts Alliance members) and available online at www.harlemaa.org.