Final Park concert is a world music party

by Walt Maguire
Posted 7/30/21

The Pastorius Park summer concert series concludes on Wednesday, August 4, with Worldtown Soundsystem.

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Final Park concert is a world music party

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The Pastorius Park summer concert series concludes on Wednesday, August 4, with Worldtown Soundsystem.

The summer series was shorter this year, returning from a pandemic hiatus on July 14 with Andrew Lipke and the Azrael String Quartet, providing soulful acoustic takes on Lipke’s romantic originals. Then Meghan Cary and the Analog Gypsies brought a more folk-rock sound. The July 28th show was the big band jazz of Jack Saint Clair, with a horn section that echoed across the park’s lawns. The short season has been eventful: Lipke set was interrupted for ten minutes by a power outage, allowing him to demonstrate his skill at unamplified singing. Cary’s show on July 21 was moved indoors at the last minute, first because of an Orange Alert on air quality from the Pacific Northwest fires, and then the violent storm passing through the area which cleared the air as it knocked out trees and power lines throughout the region. The more intimate setting proved to be an equally good fit for Cary. Saint Clair had better weather.

This is Worldtown’s return to Pastorius after a show in July 2017. A mix of house, Afrobeat, funk and dancehall that switches gears fluently, like someone in the band just came up with a new idea and the rest of them go along with it. The feeling is a group of independent artists who get together for the evening because they like each other and they’re have a great time, which can be as exciting to watch as well as listen to.

DJs Oluwafemi and Ben Arsenal met after college when they were both spinning world music and were introduced. “We immediately hit it off,” said Arsenal (offstage, Ben Schneible). Arsenal was from Vermont, Oluwafemi was from Nigeria. They both went to Temple University, though not at the same time. They were both fans of Fela Kuti, the Nigerian singer/songwriter. They began to DJ together. Not long after, a mutual friend asked them to be the musical directors for a party he was planning called called Worldtown.

“We played the party and it was a smash hit,” Arsenal said. “The beautiful thing was there was people from all over the world there that really enjoyed the diversity of the music that we brought. So we decided to keep going with it, and we had our first official Worldtown party in 2011.”

They started including musicians and singers. Julian Hinson on bass and Gary Dann on drums; Pablo Batista on percussion and Anessa LaRae on vocals. There are nine regular members (including Arsenal live-sequencing) and a range of guests. A large group means a lot of moving parts. “Everybody does have various projects going on,” Arsenal said. “All the members are full-time musicians and there are sometimes scheduling conflicts.”  (Pierre Nix will be filling on for Pablo Batista at Pastorius; Batista is on tour with H.E.R.)

“It’s kind of interesting because I do a lot of collaborations outside of the band, in the studio, that kind of translate to band collaborations. The variety and flexibility of being a DJ producer helps out a lot, so I can say Hey would you be interested in collaborating.” From the studio they might show up on the stage.

In addition to being a DJ and the art director, Oluwafemi is a visual artist. Last Spring he submitted a proposal for public art on Maplewood Mall under the city’s One Percent for Art program (under his full name, Femi Olatunji) with Eric Okdeh.

On October 9 they’ll mark their tenth anniversary with the album “X” featuring 10 tracks, including “Water,” a collaboration with GBL VLLG. They perform in Reading October 1, or hear them on World Café Live November 6. Music, video and events at world.town.

The Worldtown Soundsystem concert is sponsored by Merrill Lynch - Nottingham, Walsh, Goodman & Associates a firm that focuses on addressing the investing and fiduciary responsibilities of institutions as well as the wealth management needs of individuals and families.

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