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D.C.’s Newest Festival Highlights Music From Around the World

Mdou Moctar

Pictured Above: Mdou Moctar is one of several musicians performing at the inaugural Multiflora Music Festival

During the month of October, you can experience new music from across the globe without ever setting foot outside the District.

The inaugural Multiflora Music Festival serves as a month-long celebration that spotlights D.C.’s diverse music community. Over the years, veteran musician, booker and promoter Jim Thomson kept hearing the same request for more international music and a dedicated local festival. “Because of D.C., because people are here working and traveling from other countries,” said Thomson, “there’s a really large international community.”

Thomson has firm roots in the local music scene. He was one of the founding member of GWAR, played in several other bands over the years, and most recently launched his own record label–Electric Cowbell Records–and his own promotions company–Multiflora Productions. He’s worked with local organizations like Capital Fringe and DC Public Library to curate and produce shows that bring together various cultures and communities.

For the inaugural Multiflora festival, one of Thomson’s biggest challenges was curating an eclectic lineup in multiple venues across D.C. The tricky part, though, wasn’t finding a space, but the right space. “This isn’t going to work in a big place,” Thomson said. “You need an intimate space to make it work.”

The other challenge was making the inaugural festival something that could last an entire month. “I went to the Chicago World Music Festival a few years ago,” Thomson said, “and I saw that they run their music festival over the course of a whole month, instead of one day or one weekend.” And he decided, based on his experience, that he would format the Multiflora Festival the same way.

Thomson ended up booking acts on 13 different stages, including Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Safari Lounge, Hill Center, and Market SW. The lineup includes performers from or influenced by the native sounds of Kosovo (Crêpúsculo), Peru (Los Wembler’s de Iquitos), Colombia (La Colombopercutiva), Niger (Mdou Moctar), Ethiopia (Feedel Band), Syria (Amplify Peace Tour), and more. Thomson drew on his knowledge and contacts to book this year’s performers, though he is considering a more formal application process for future festivals.

Accessibility is a large part of what Thomson is striving for with Multiflora; something that was also derived from his experience in Chicago. A large number of the shows are all ages, giving younger people an opportunity to experience different types of music and customs.

Many of these shows are also free or have a nominal ($10 or less) cover charge. To keep admissions prices low, Thomson is relying on crowdfunding to help cover expenses. If you’re interested in supporting the cause, you can donate here.

The Multifora Music Festival will take place until October 31. For more details on show times and locations, visit the festival’s official website