Attendees enjoy a performance during the 30th annual Concert of Colors in 2022. This year’s festival starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday at various locations throughout Midtown Detroit and Dearborn. (Photo by Doug Coombe)

A female rock collective named after funk singer Betty Dauis, an African acrobatic troupe and an indigenous pow wow dance are a few of the acts expected to take the stage for the 31st year of Concert of Colors. 

The free, multicultural festival runs Wednesday through Sunday and will feature more than three dozen performances. Local and international artists scheduled to perform include Detroit poet and artist Jessica Care Moore and her rock group Daughters of Betty, the Don Was All Star Revue paying tribute to some of Detroit’s great jazz musicians, Montreal-based Kalabante: Afrique en Cirque and New Mexico indigenous artist Robert Mirabel. 

Julian Marley, the son of reggae legend Bob Marley, is this year’s headliner and will perform at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Detroit Film Theatre inside the Detroit Institute of Arts. 

Beyond music and dance, Concert of Colors will offer food trucks, film screenings and an area for kids. Attendees can also check out discussions on topics like climate change, Detroit hip-hop and the roles gender and race play in rock music. 

A majority of the performances and forums will take place at cultural institutions around Midtown including the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Science Center, Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Historical Museum, University of Michigan Detroit Center and Hellenic Museum of Michigan. Other events will be held at the Scarab Club, Carr Center and Third Man Records as well as the Arab American Museum in Dearborn. 

Event Deputy Director and WDET personality Ralph Valdez said Detroit has an advantage compared to other cities when it comes to the array of ethnic groups and cultures that coexist. 

“Growing up here, I always appreciated the exposure to different cultures and different people, food and things that really help to expand your knowledge and your appreciation of what other people are experiencing,” he said. “It makes it easier to bring those people together for a Concert of Colors.” 

New this year 

One thing the Concert of Colors team is focusing on this year is highlighting groups that have been underrepresented at past festivals, such as the indigenous community, Valdez said. The Detroit Historical Museum is hosting performances from indigenous acts like Mirabal and Detroit artist Hadassah GreenSky at 5:10 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Friday and a pow wow dance from GreenSky, Detroit rapper SouFy and northern Michigan-based artist Jamie John at 7:30 p.m. 

“We feel like Concert of Colors always tries to give a voice to some of the communities that haven’t had as much of a presence,” Valdez said. “But more than ever this year, we are really concentrating because there’s just so much that needs to be said and experienced with the Native American community to heighten awareness and to build more bridges and to help people understand more about all the wonderful things that different communities and cultures bring to the world.” 

The festival is expanding its forum offerings, too. On Wednesday, there will be a forum on community, culture and race titled, “Air, Water, Land and Climate Change” from 6-8:30 p.m. at the Arab American Museum. Moore will moderate a panel at noon Friday at the Carr Center on race and gender in rock music called, “They Say I’m Different.” Also Friday, the 50th anniversary of hip-hop will be celebrated during the panel discussion “More Than Eight Mile: Detroit’s Quest for Hip-Hop Glory,” from 6-9 p.m. at the University of Michigan Detroit Center. The conversation will be moderated by Antonio Cuyler, a professor at the U-M School of Music, Theater and Dance. 

One of the panelists for “More Than Eight Mile” is Detroit activist Teferi Brent. Before starting his work in the community, he was known as Kaos, one half of the 80s hip-hop group Kaos and Mystro, which also featured Jason Wilson. 

Kaos and Mystro formed in 1987 and signed to independent label World One Records the following year. The group came out with one album, 1989’s “Outcast Vol. 1,” which featured the popular single, “Mystro on the Flex.” 

Kaos and Mystro completed a second album, but due to issues with World One, it was never released, Brent said. By the mid 90s, he had moved on from rapping. 

Brent will talk about his short-lived career and Detroit’s hip-hop scene Friday alongside producer Nick Speed, filmmaker Al Nuke, jit master Michael Smith, poet and rapper Deidre D.S. Sense and Detroit Musix founder Sam Donald. 

“I want to talk about the evolution of Detroit hip hop, the legacy, the richness of Detroit hip-hop, and how hip-hop in our city has always been tied to social struggle, social resistance,” he said. 

‘Unity through diversity’ 

To close out the festival on Sunday, the Detroit Historical Museum will show the 2017 documentary “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World” at 1 p.m., which takes a look at the indigenous people who contributed to rock and roll over the years. 

Then, at 3 p.m., the museum will have a screening of “Concert of Colors: Unity in Diversity,” which premiered at the festival last year. The documentary details the start of Concert for Colors in 1993 by founder Ismael Ahmed and how it has turned into one of metro Detroit’s biggest summer festivals. 

Valdez said he hopes attendees experience positive vibes while enjoying this year’s performances and that they embrace the festival’s message of unity and appreciation for other cultures. 

“It’s such a positive experience where people come together and they come from so many different parts of the city and of the world,” he said. “I hope that more people will come and appreciate the goodness of the festival and what it brings and all the bridges that it builds, instead of the walls that come up so much nowadays. That’s what I hope that people take away from the festival this year.” 

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *