‘Global Mashups’ at Flushing Town Hall

“Egypt meets Haiti” on May 4 at Flushing Town Hall. (Photo by Allyson Escobar for Voices of NY)

Flushing Town Hall is once again buzzing with music, dance and cross-cultures.

Its popular Global Mashups series, combining two world cultures on one stage, started up last month. The series, inaugurated in 2013, has been held nearly every year since then at the historic town hall building in Flushing.

Global Mashups epitomize the organization’s mission of presenting multidisciplinary arts – performance, visual, dance, music, and education – as a way to celebrate and engage the diverse immigrant communities that make up New York City.

“The vision of this program is simply to do something unusual,” said Sami Abu Shumays, deputy director of Flushing Town Hall. “Global Mashups highlight a central aspect of the mission, which is cultural exchange. Bringing people together through the arts.”

For a ticketed price ($10 for Town Hall members and students, $16 for non-members, free for teens) participants can join with live bands for a cross-cultural extravaganza. There are three more concerts in the season.

Flushing Town Hall – a 156-year-old building which once held formal dress balls, jazz concerts, theatrical shows and speeches from figures including P.T. Barnum and Frederick Douglass – has become a suitable venue for Global Mashups.

The bimonthly Friday night programs, held in the Town Hall’s restored theater, begin with traditional group dance lessons set to live music, from Afro-Peruvian beats to contemporary Mexican banda.

Each band comes up to showcase their unique style onstage, with dancing welcomed from both performers and participants. At the end, the groups come together to perform. This year, the series has included world genres such as Latin Boogaloo, Afrobeat, Haitian kompa and traditional Egyptian music.

“Everyone is taking some sort of chance,” said Shumays, who is also the lead violinist and singer in the Arab folkloric band Zikrayat. “There are going to be some people coming there for the Haitian band who don’t know the music, and vice versa. So everyone will have some kind of new experience and learn something new that they can’t learn, quite like this, anywhere else in the world. It’s a great and accessible way to get to know a different culture, challenge yourself, and meet [the] community.”

At the May 4 “Global Mashup” at Flushing Town Hall. (Photo by Allyson Escobar for Voices of NY)

Alpana Patel, her husband Sanjay, and their 5-year-old daughter Zuni came to Global Mashups on May 4 for “Egypt meets Haiti.”

At least 150 people of diverse races and ages packed the hall for music and dancing – including electrified performances from Zikrayat, traditional belly dancing, and flavorful Haitian kompa from the Agoci Band.

By the end of the night, the lively crowd was dancing out of their seats, as the two bands came together to jam onstage.

“It’s such a fascinating concept to bring two different cultures and music styles together on one stage,” said Alpana Patel, who lives in Kew Gardens. “Music is a universal language. And being in Queens, the most diverse borough, you get a unique chance to be exposed to so much of the world.”

Patel, who plans to bring her daughter Zuni to more of the Flushing Town Hall family programs offered year-round, says it’s always important for people to interact and expand their cultural horizons.

“The more you step out of your comfort zone, the more open-minded you are, and it broadens your world view of things. Especially through the arts and performance, you learn at the end of the day how similar and human we all are.”

Flushing Town Hall’s Global Mashups 2018 series continues on May 18 (Mexico meets Guinea), June 1 (Balkans meets El Barrio), and June 15 (Texas meets Peru). For more information, visit the Flushing Town Hall website.

Allyson Escobar is a member of the 2018 class of the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.

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