The LEAF list

Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars return to LEAF this spring. Photo by Zach Smith
Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars return to LEAF this spring. Photo by Zach Smith

Heading to LEAF next weekend and not quite sure what to see? The good news is that you can’t really go wrong. The festival always packs its roster with an array of stellar acts that range from traditional to contemporary and Americana to international. But this spring brings some world and fusion acts of note. Here’s a list of four bands worth checking out, and one techno contra dance (no, seriously).

Boukman Eksperyans

It’s sad, but mentions of Haiti tend to spark more images of natural disaster and political unrest than those of revelry and music. But Grammy-nominated Boukman Eksperyans does it country proud. Both political and life-affirming, the collective tells Haiti’s story through reggae grooves, high energy beats and buoyant melodies.

Friday, Lakeside stage, 8:15-9:45 p.m.; Saturday, Eden Hall, 6:15-7:30 p.m.; Sunday, The Barn, 12:15-1:15 p.m.

Red Baraat

“If in theory, Red Baraat reads like some kind of ethnomusicologist’s academic dream, let’s agree that in practice, it’s a peyote dream,” says the Brooklyn-based outfit’s bio. It’s a true melding of influences: North Indian bhangra rhythms meets jazz, funk and hip-hop. “Live, these songs take on a new life. Night by night, the whip-smart, road-tested band challenges itself, dipping in and out of improvisation, teaching the audience dance moves, and visibly having a blast,” says the bio — good news for LEAF-goers.

Friday, Eden Hall, 1-2:30 a.m.; Saturday, Lakeside Stage, 8:30-10 p.m.

Red Baraat @ Brooklyn Bridge Park from Red Baraat on Vimeo.

Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars

Two things about Sierra Leone’s Refugee All-Stars: 1) They’ve lived through atrocities unimaginable to most LEAF-goers and 2) They demonstrate with their music a capacity for sheer joy. The 2005 documentary film, Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars — the world’s introduction to this phenomenal band — is hard to watch, but it ends well. The group’s members, displaced to Guinea during the Sierra Leone Civil War, were eventually able to return to Freetown. And not only did they rebuild their lives, but the band that formed in refugee camps has become a touring force, raising awareness about humanitarian causes.

Sunday, Lakeside Stage, 2:15-3:45 p.m.

Beats Antique

Yes, they’re one of this year’s headliners, so you’ve probably heard of them. But did you know that not only has Beats Antique been making a big name for its own brand of tribal fusion/electronic/bellydance/performance art, other touring musicians, like Sorne and Sean Hayes, have landed opening dates for Beats Antique, thereby expanding their own audiences. The band’s A Thousand Faces: Act II came out this year.

Friday, Lakeside Stage, 10:30 p.m.-midnight

Late-night techno contra dance

Crossover contra dancing is a thing, and LEAF — long a bastion of dance events — was quick to jump on the mashup bandwagon. Though, perhaps, hard to imagine, techno contra dance is pretty much what the name implies. A string band is replaced by a DJ, but the moves are the same and are driven by the beat.

Late-night techno contra dance with DJ Jor-D and caller Jesse Edgerton. Saturday, Brookside Hall, 11:45 p.m.-1:45 a.m.

Tickets are on sale until Thursday, May 8 (or until they sell out) — all tickets much be purchased in advance. Camping permits and weekend passes are sold out. Full-weekend day-passes are $109 adults/$96 youth. Friday and Sunday passes are $48/$39, Saturday passes are $58/$52.

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About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts writer and editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs.

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