Originally published on August 9, 2021. Updated on June 6, 2022.
This Week on One Detroit, Arts & Culture:
Concert of Colors, metro Detroit’s World Music Festival, Returns In-Person in 2022
Concert of Colors, metro Detroit’s free annual diversity-focused World music festival, returns in person for the 2022 summer season for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Housed in Culture Source, a coalition of 152 arts organizations in Southeast Michigan, the Concert of Colors has become the Midwest’s biggest diversity and arts festival.
The goal of the upbeat, week-long festival is to unite metro Detroit’s diverse communities and ethnic groups through music and dance from around the world, and to create conversations where participants embrace freedom of expression. Celebrating its 30th year in July, the festival has blossomed into a celebrated, beloved highlight of metro Detroit’s summer festival season- one of the few remaining large-scale, free-admission music festivals in the area.
Concert of Colors Founder Ismael Ahmed Talks About Festival’s Birth, Tenure
The Concert of Colors was established by Ismael Ahmed, the former head of the human services organization ACCESS, and New Detroit in 1993 as a one-day event at Chene Park on Detroit’s riverfront. The inaugural event drew a modest crowd to Chene Park, but by 1999, some 10,000 music lovers were coming out each year.
The festival expanded to three days in 2001, when it was part of the official festivities for Detroit’s 300th birthday, drawing an audience of 100,000. In 2019, the concert expanded to nine days. In recent years, attendance at the Concert of Colors has been more than 30,000.
Back in 2005, the festival’s opening night performance was relocated to the historic Orchestra Hall at the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center in Detroit, the home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra (DSO). The DSO became a full partner in 2006 as the entire festival relocated to the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, with two indoor stages and one outdoor stage. In 2007, the festival grew to encompass four days of free live music.
A major new development took place in 2008 when Don Was, über producer and the President of Blue Note Records, joined the Concert of Colors working group to curate and produce the Don Was All Star Revue which has become the top yearly showcase of Motor City music in the country.
In 2010, the Detroit Institute of Arts joined this remarkable collaborative effort, and as of 2019 is serving as the main stage for Concert of Colors. In 2011, the number of festival venues expanded to four, with the addition of The Scarab Club and the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History.
One Detroit Associate Producer Will Glover sits down with Ahmed to hear more about the creation of Concert of Colors and the changes the festival has seen over the years.
Music has the ability to bring people of different backgrounds, cultures and perspectives together. It’s been the core principle behind Detroit’s Concert of Colors, and a core belief of erhuist Xiao Dong Wei, whose band Madame XD has performed at Concert of Colors.
One Detroit Associate Producer Will Glover sits down with Xiao Dong Wei to learn more about the difference between the erhu and western string instruments, as well as what it means to be part of Concert of Colors as a global musician.
Plus, Xiao Dong Wei shares how she’s kept busy as a musician during the COVID-19 pandemic, her advice for aspiring musicians just getting started and how Concert of Colors helps shine a light on other social, political and humanitarian issues in the world.
Watch Performances From Last Gasp Collective and Don Was All Star Revue
Plus, enjoy performances from Last Gasp Collective and the Don Was All Star Revue with Tosha Ownes at the 2020 virtual Concert of Colors.
The several-day festival went virtual with the help of Detroit Public Television and other community partners and was able to continue, being broadcast over four nights on Detroit Public TV. It provided World music listeners, local Detroiters and others a way to connect with the music and community they were missing.
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Concert of Colors, metro Detroit’s free annual diversity-focused World music festival, returns in person for the 2022 summer season for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Ahead of the July festival, One Detroit revisits interviews with founder Ismael Ahmed and performers from the 2020 festival.
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