My night started with a yellow shoe drum solo. This is probably not a phrase that commonly crosses most people’s minds, but at Globalquerque, New Mexico’s annual global culture and music festival, it became a reality. As I walked into the Journal Theater at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, I was welcomed by the quick rhythms of a drum. After making my way through the throngs of dancing people crowding the entrance, I found a spot along the wall of the balcony and looked down toward the stage: a lively musician beating on a goatskin hand drum, a Caja Vallenata from Colombia, while the rest of his band looked on. About 30 seconds into the solo, he set the drum on the floor and began to play with his feet. Like the rest of the band, he was wearing neon yellow sneakers—hence the yellow shoe drum solo.

This brilliant solo served as an interlude in the performance of the band Rey Vallenato Beto Jamaica, a Colombian group that combines three older styles of music, cumbia, paseo, and porro, to make a vibrant vallenato sound. The group uses the accordion, caja vallenato drum, guacharaca (tube-shaped percussion instrument), vocals, and several guitars to capture the spirit of Colombia.

The crowd, embracing the dynamic rhythm, was mostly on its feet. Couples danced salsa between the rows of seats, and the hallways were packed with people bouncing to the rhythm.

As I walked outside, away from the vibrancy of the theater, I immediately fell into the energetic streets of West Africa. On the main stage, in the Plaza Mayor, Rocky Duwani danced and sang with flying dreadlocks, accompanied by his Ghanaian band.  Accompanied by several other musicians, Duwani’s music attracted even more of a crowd than Rey Vallenato Beto Jamaica had.  One of their songs, “African Freedom,” which the musician professed was making its debut on stage, had an irresistibly snappy beat.

After a brief detour to the food tents, where vendors were selling authentic gyros, pad thai, pizza, and many other cuisines, I headed to the third stage, located in the Fountain Courtyard. In distinct contrast to the body-moving pulses of the other two groups, Los Primos focused on the beauty of solo vocals. The lead singer, Lenore Armijo, stood on the stage in a bright red skirt and a black knitted shawl and belted out Spanish lyrics with unbelievable soul. One of the two New Mexican groups performing at Globalquerque, Armijo captured the heart of New Mexican music. Next to me, three elderly New Mexican women crooned along with her, laughing and wailing as some of the younger members of the crowd grabbed each other’s arms and swung in a do-si-do to the more lively strum of the guitars.

Near the end of her performance, I danced out of the courtyard and headed back into the Journal Theater. This time, instead of the exciting claps of the crowd, the beautiful song of a pipa, a stringed Chinese instrument, reverberated through the auditorium. Liu Fang, the gifted player on stage, didn’t need any back-up musicians to support her. Instead, her single instrument seemed to play the song of many with a combination of quickly rolling fast notes, pure slow notes, and invigorating chords. She created a peaceful atmosphere, and looked unbelievably poised and graceful throughout the piece. Her evident love for the music shone through as she played, and it is no wonder that she was invited to play in front of Queen Elizabeth II at age 11.

After Liu Fang, I decided to stop by the main stage on my way out. As the Texmaniacs began, the crowd stood up and instinctively moved toward the foot of the stage. The Grammy award-winning band mostly playing large guitars, while at the edge of the stage, an accordionist rocked back and forth as he pumped the instrument, so deep into the music that he almost fell over. The large sombrero-topped man in the center belted out a combination of Spanish and English lyrics, and once again dancing filled the plaza.

As I walked away from the 10th annual Globalquerque celebration, the music from the Plaza Mayor and the Fountain Courtyard drifted through the street, tempting me to return. With 17 international music groups, countless artists’ stalls, and yummy ethnic food, Globalquerque earns its name, serving up a flavorful blend of international music, art, and cuisine.

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