Detroit Festival of the Arts » Performer Profiles

Performer Profiles

American Mars


americanmars_g1.gifSince its inception in the late nineties, American Mars has been a musical anomaly in their hometown of Detroit. The band has persevered for nearly a decade with its uniques brand of atmospheric roots-influenced rock. The band recently released its third full-length record, Western Sides, on Gangplank Records.


Babylon Circus


babylon_g.gifBabylon Circus is a ten-piece group from Lyon, France, whose multilingual antics and big-top energy defy a genre by mixing ska, rock, reggae, swing and jazz influences, and French punk. They sing in both French and English, sometimes mixing the two, and many of their songs are politically focused. Debuting in the United States in 2008, Babylon Circus is quickly developing a U.S. following that will soon catch up with their widespread European popularity. Their unique sonic spectacle creates enormous power on stage - the kind where you don’t want the show to end.


Contemporary Slovenian Folk-Pop

brina_g.gifThe ensemble Brina, named after its lead singer Brina Bogelnik, was formed by the member’s desire for a free, fresh and bold musical approach. Influenced by traditional Slovenian music, Brina’s recordings have spent a considerable amount of time in the top ten of Europe’s World Music Charts. Brina has also been featured on the BBC and performed at Womex in 2006.

Chic Gamine

Canadian Vocal Supergroup

chic-gamine2_g.gifThe women of Chic Gamine (SHEEK gah-MEEN) sing like worldly angels with soul. From French chansons to Southern roots music, their inventive arrangements mix breathtaking harmony with surging vocal and instrumental percussion. From Winnipeg’s French Quarter, Chic Gamine has been singing together in various formations since 1997. With a solo percussionist as their main musical support, Chic Gamine use their voices as instruments, effortlessly launching into intricate string arrangements, bass-heavy rhythm sections and melodious harmonies.

Close-Act Visual Theatre – XL Insects

Dutch Street Theatre
xl-insects-13_g.gif The talk of last year’s festival, Close-Act Visual Theatre is being brought back by popular demand - this year as XL-Insects. Formed in 1991, Close-Act has grown into a professional community of actors, musicians, stilt-walkers, dancers, fire-throwers and acrobats. Close-Act’s XL-Insects, a mobile act featuring giant surrealistic insects that move throughout the Festival site, will no doubt leave Festival visitors speechless once again.

Debbie A. Taylor

Children’s Book Author

debbietaylor_g.gifDebbie A. Taylor is a picture book author. She attended Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland State University and Ohio Dominican College. She works at the University of Michigan and has had several stories published in children’s literary magazines. Taylor and her husband live in Ann Arbor.

Fabulous Nichol’s Duo

Cabaret-style piano and vocal duo

fabnicols_g.gifDetroit-based musicians Greg Nichols and Marshall Allen make up the Fabulous Nichol’s Duo. Nichols is a graduate of the Juilliard School of Music as well as the Interlochen School of the Arts and has been playing professionally for 47 years. He has performed with such artists as Barry Manilow, Chaka Khan and The Platters. Allen is a member of Detroit’s very live R & B band Hidden Agenda Band. Together their witty repartee, smooth vocals and melodic piano create an entertaining cabaret show.

Grand Dérangement

Acadian music & dance

grandderangement_g.gifGrand Dérangement, an award-winning group from the Saint Mary’s Bay area of Nova Scotia, draws its eclectic approach from such disparate musical inspiration as French chansonniers, folk, Celtic, rock, and Broadway. The rhythms are contagious; the dancers enthralling. The music is exciting, the show is a visual feast, and the highly poetic songs, while insightful, defy the audience to sit still.

Guy Davis


guydavis_g.gifHe’s a musician, composer, actor, director, and writer. But most importantly, Guy Davis is a bluesman. The blues permeates every corner of Davis’ creativity. He has dedicated himself to reviving the traditions of acoustic blues and to sharing them with as many ears as possible through a seamless combination of material from the great blues masters, African American stories, and his own original songs, stories, and performance pieces.

Hardline Drive

Progressive Bluegrass

hardline-drive_g.gifThe Oxford Michigan based progressive bluegrass ensemble, Hardline Drive, was formed in 2006 and is composed of seasoned veterans with years of experience in both traditional and newer forms of bluegrass music, with a focused attention on producing original material. As a band, the emphasis is on solid timing and tight harmonies, offering audiences a taste of original compositions, traditional favorites, and contemporary classics.

Hudson Vagabond Puppets

Puppet Theatre

hvpmamfollies_g.gifIncorporated in 1980 as a not-for-profit company, Hudson Vagabond Puppets creates full theatrical productions using life-size and larger than life-size puppets. A perennial favorite of the Festival’s young visitors, this year the Hudson Vagabond Puppets will present The Mammoth Follies, a full-scale theatrical production that explores the wonders of evolution in an old-fashioned revue of original songs, witty jokes, and earth-smashing dances performed by giant dinosaur puppets.

Lisa Lauren Smith

Detroit Pop/Rock

llaurenphoto_g.gifA native of Detroit,Michigan, Lisa was involved in music and the arts at a very young age. Training in classical piano at the age of 4 and by age 12 Lisa had become one of three members of rap/r&b group “Trak 3″. An alumni of The Detroit High School For the Fine and Performing Arts, Lisa’s connections lead her to becoming a part-time radio personality, DJ “Mona Lisa” for WDTJ 105.9 FM. This opened up doors to other opportunities and eventually Lisa headed for LA to pursue her career in singing and acting. Today, Lisa has become a seasoned singer/songwriter and actor. After 3 years of singing and performing solo and with local bands in the LA area, Lisa began work on her own original music. Lisa moved back to Michigan where she has completed her debut album “Rock Steady” on her own Manchester Records label.

Marionetas de la Esquina

Mexican Puppet Theatre
marionetas_g.gifMarionetas de la Esquina is a Mexican puppet company that keeps a repertory of 10 shows and has won significant recognition both in their native Mexico and abroad. Founded in 1975, it has given more than 11 thousand performances and 500 workshops and seminars about puppets. The Marionetas de la Esquina also founded the Festival “Titerias” an International event that promotes the art of puppetry in Mexico. They will present One Moon Between Two Houses in both Spanish and English at this year’s Festival.

Marta Gomez

South American Singer

martagomez_g.gifMarta Gomez and her group perform a repertoire composed entirely of original songs based on a fascinating variety of rhythms from all over Latin America including Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Argentina mixed with jazz and pop elements. Originally from Colombia, the singer started to compose songs exploring her roots, but when she met the Argentinean musicians that form her group, they decided to share their musical backgrounds to create a distinctive blend of music that reflects the sound and culture of South America.


Detroit String Band

moonsqualler_portrait_g.gifMoonsqualler is a Detroit-based quintet playing a wide variety of old-time acoustic music including hard time ballads, rowdy drinking songs, vintage country music and songs from the ragtime, tin-pan-alley, and jug band traditions. A lot of the music comes from that rare musical moment in the 1920’s and 1930’s before modern music, before bluegrass, when the old country had a story and a soul. The music was found at pub sessions and house parties as well as learned from old records from folks like Riley Puckett, Charlie Poole, the Carter family, Jimmie Rodgers, Merle Haggard, Doc Watson, and Hank Williams. Matthew Greenia and wife Nancy Sexton-Greenia started Moonsqualler about seven years ago playing guitar and mandolin and singing. Arthur Melos joined the band playing a washboard mounted on a snare stand, train whistles, cowbells, duck calls and an old Sradivarius five gallon gas can. Local folk icon Jere Stormer plays practically everything, fiddle, dobro, banjo and guitar and sings with Moonsqualler. Frank Greenhalgh brings it all down home with his acoustic bass.

Mosaic Singers

Youth Ensemble

mosaic-close-rb_g.gifMosaic’s mission is to empower young people to maximize their potential through professional performing arts training and creation of first-rate theatrical and musical art. Founded in 1992, Mosaic is now a model for Youth Development through the Arts. The commitment and skills of these young performers are truly awe inspiring.

One Ring Zero

Brooklyn quirk-pop

oneringzero_g.gifMichael Hearst and Joshua Camp met in 1995 while working at the Hohner musical instrument warehouse and repair center in Richmond, Virginia. There, as Hearst tuned harmonicas and Camp worked as an accordion technician, the two developed a friendship based on a shared interest in oddball instruments. Hearst and Camp soon came up with the idea of forming a band based on one-of-a-kind instruments that few other musicians had ever hear of, much less played. Thus was born One Ring Zero, a duo that occasionally swells to a sextet and specializes in sort of 19th-century, gypsy-klezmer, circus-flea-cartoon music you mainly hear in your dreams.

Orchid Ensemble

Chinese influenced world music ensemble


Blending ancient musical instruments and traditions from China and beyond in a beautiful new sound, the JUNO nominated Orchid Ensemble has embraced a variety of musical styles. The energetic yet endearing performance style of the ensemble consistently intrigues and delights its audiences, consistently receiving standing ovations. Acclaimed as ‘One of the brightest blossoms on the world music scene’ (Georgia Straight), the Orchid Ensemble has been tirelessly developing an innovative musical genre based on the cultural exchange between Western and Asian musicians. Orchid Ensemble will perform their touring Silk Road Project which is inspired by the rich cultural heritage embodied by the ancient Silk Road. While in essence Chinese, the music is colored with the rhythms and character of the many exotic lands and cultural traditions found along the Silk Road.


Performance Art from Spain

osadiajc_g.gifThis unique group of performance artists from Spain, with liberal use of flashy colors and wild hair accessories, will magically transform your hairdo into an extravagant “hair sculpture.” The Historical Museum Plaza will be transformed into a temporary hair salon while Osadia hairdressers work their magic on audience volunteers. Their outrageous hair sculptures will leave you amazed and with a whole new appreciation for your hairdresser!

Peter Lewis & David West


peter-lewis.gifOne of the founding members of Moby Grape, Peter Lewis is undoubtedly one of the most underrated musicians and contributors to come out of the 1960’s rock revolution. Due to a litany of struggles that ran the gamut from mismanagement to drug abuse, Moby Grape’s true potential was never realized. It took Peter Lewis a long time to shake off the troubled legacy of his band and make his mark with new original music. That finally happened in 1993 with the release of his first solo album Peter Lewis on Taxim. Rolling Stone gave the album five stars and Lewis presented himself as a mature and expressive solo artist. His songs were expertly crafted, rich on melody and they featured intricate musical arrangements. Peter will appear with multi-instrumentalist David West, who is well known as a freelance musician, playing as a sideman in recording sessions and performances with many well known artists. Currently, days are spent writing, recording and performing material designed to advance the cause of regional musical styles. The goal: To bring more diversity to the popular musical menu, and in so doing, promote cultural tolerance and communication through music.


Latin Alt-folklorico


Pistolera is a NYC-based band that defines the Latin alt-folklorico genre. Drawing from traditional styles of Mexican music and fusing it with a pop-rock sensibility, the electrifying quartet features the Spanish lyric songs of vocalist and guitarist Sandra Lilia Velásquez, the driving accordion melodies of Maria Elena, and the unbeatable rhythm section of bassist Inca B. Satz and drummer Ani Cordero. Since the release of their debut album “Siempre Hay Salida” in 2006 the band has been featured in Billboard Magazine, The New Yorker, Latina Magazine, El Diario, and on top-rated radio shows such as NPR’S “Open Mic,” Democrazy Now! with Amy Goodman, and John Schaeffer’s “Soundcheck” on WNYC.

Po’ Girl

Acoustic Alt-country

pogirl_g.gifPo’ Girl is a Canadian acoustic group whose style derives from jazz, folk, and country with a tinge of punk attitude. The style of music they perform is sometimes referred to as Alt-country but today more commonly called Americana. The interplay between these two stunning performers is truly something to behold.

Raul Malo


raulmalocolor2_g.gifBest known as the co-founder of the Grammy winning country band, Mavericks, Raul Malo has not only become a successful record producer, but has developed a strong solo career blending the Latin rhythms of his Cuban heritage with the pop sounds of the 60’s and the deep-twang guitar of country music. Malo brings his voice extraordinaire and a rocking band to the Festival’s Masco/Metro Times Main Stage.

Ray McNiece


raymcniece_g.gifIn addition to being considered a slam poetry legend, the Orlando Sentinel reporting on Ray’s solo show at the Fringe Festival called him “a modern day descendant of Woody Guthrie. He has a way with words and a wry sense of humor.”

Rob Curto’s Sanfona Project

Brazilian-beat Accordionist

robcurto_g.gifItalian-American musician Rob Curto brings passion, energy and musicality to the accordion, shedding new light on the instrument’s many timbral and rhythmic possibilities. The Los Angeles Times writes that, “Curto’s originals combine traditional authenticity with persuasive dashes of jazz.” An early devotee of North American swing music, bebop piano, funk, rock and blues, Rob Curto combines these influences with his mastery of South American forró and the many other styles that belong to the Brazilian accordion tradition. The result is completely original, authentic and stimulating to fans of all kinds, and has earned the accordion many a convert.

Slavic Soul Party!

New York’s Official #1 Brass Band for BalkanSoulGypsyFunk

slavicsoulparty_g.gifFiery Gypsy brass, soulful Balkan anthems, and hip-grinding American funk; Slavic Soul Party! is just what it says. Brash and strong as slivovitz, these nine musicians have forged virtuosic new brass band music in the heart of New York City - melding Gypsy, East European, Mexican and Asian immigrant backgrounds with American jazz and soul - and “developed a reputation for delivering a great time.” - New York Times

Ronnie Earl & The Broadcasters

 Blues guitarist

ronnieearltakingittothepeople.jpgOne of the finest new blues guitarists to emerge during the ’80s, Ronnie Earl often straddled the line between blues and jazz, throwing in touches of soul and rock as well. His versatility made him one of the few blues guitarists capable of leading an almost entirely instrumental outfit and his backing band the Broadcasters became one of the more respected working units in contemporary blues over the course of the ’90s, following Earl’s departure from Roomful of Blues.

Steppin In It

American Roots Music

steppininit_g.gifToting an ample supply of vintage instruments and a sound that brings listeners back to the days of old-time radio, Steppin’ In It is determined to make a dent in the roots community. Hailing from Lansing, these young men pound out their own brand of roots combining old-time country, swing and blues. Together, they achieve the seemingly impossible task of making the most traditional sounds contemporary. Upright bassist Dominic Suchyta and multi-instrumentalist brothers Andy and Joe Wilson compliment the strong songwriting talents of singer/songwriter Josh Davis, who’s haunting vocals paint a picture of rural and urban Michigan breaking its blue-collar back under troubled times.


Cape Verde singer & guitarist

tcheka_g.gifTcheka is a charismatic singer, guitarist, composer, and groove master from the Santa Catarina district of Santiago, the most African island of the Cape Verde archipelago. At a very early age, he began to perform alongside his father who was a highly popular violinist at the island’s village dances and festivities. At 15, he began to develop a more personal style, based on batuque; turning it into a beat that everyone would love. Tcheka who has been described as a “pop-griot” continues to evolve his sound, transposing his roots and culture into music for all.

Teddy Thompson


teddynew_g.gifThompson, son of folk-rock legends Richard and Linda Thompson, developed his musical drive early in life and launched his first band while still in his early teens. By the time he released his self-titled solo debut in 2000, he’d served a stint in his father’s touring band and contributed guitar and vocals to his dad’s albums You? Me? Us? and Mock Tudor. He subsequently co-produced and played on his mother’s 2002 comeback disc Fashionably Late, and released two more of his own solo albums, Separate Ways (2006) and Up Front & Downlow (2007). His new album, A Piece Of What You Need, will be released on June 17th and is the London-born, New York-based artist’s most ambitious and accomplished effort to date, showcasing his formidable vocal, songwriting and guitar talents while venturing into rewarding new musical and lyrical territory.

The Budos Band

Horn-driven world roots funk

budosband_g.gifWith its twenty-two legs, three horns, and hallucinogenic venom, The Budos Band (the unheralded emperors of Instrumental Staten Island Afro-Soul) continue to rule. While their debut album was itself heralded as a groundbreaking exploration of funk, afro-beat and soul music, few could predict that their second effort would not only match but surpass the realm of mind-expansion embodied on their first sessions.

Thornetta Davis

Funky Blues Diva

performer_thornettadavis_g.gifFor over fifteen years this multi-talented native Detroiter has graced and dominated Michigan’s most attended events. She has performed over two hundred shows a year with grace and stamina. Her voice is strong, commanding, melodic and smooth. She tells her stories with incredible delivery and leaves her audiences wanting more.

Thylias Moss


Thylias Moss is an African American poet, writer, and playwright, who has published a number of poetry collections, children’s books, and plays. Among her awards are a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, an Artist’s Fellowship from the Massachusetts Arts Council, and the Witter Bynner Award for poetry.

Vagabond Opera

Bohemian Cabaret

vagabond-opera-03_g.gifBased in the Pacific Northwest, yet encompassing the world, Vagabond Opera delivers passionate offerings of Bohemian cabaret. Paris hot Jazz, gut bucket swing, Tangos, Ukrainian folk-punk ballads, Klezmer and vigorous originals meet a world of riverboat gambling queens, Turkish belly dancers, and the enigmatic Marlene Dietrich. Weaving elements of Kurt Weil, Duke Ellington and Edith Piaf with absurdist flair, theatrics and an old world mood, Vagabond Opera presents the new wave of opera–lusty voices singing in 11 languages and presenting a cabaret of rich musical phrasing, sparkling lyrics and indomitable stage presence, all played with exuberance, skill and a gritty Vagabond edge. This is Opera liberated and reinvented for everyone.

Wise Fool New Mexico - Flexion

Aerial and Physical Theatre
flexion10s_g.gif Wise Fool New Mexico, based in Sante Fe, has been creating original works to rave reviews for 17 years. Wise Fool has been described as a cosmic, socially conscious cirque du Soleil - with heart and substance and brilliant, inventive and vastly entertaining. Flexion is an aerial and stilt movement spectacle that was commissioned in 2007 for Miami’s Carnival Center. Featuring five acrobats on stilts rolling into backbends, splits, and a myriad of sculptural forms high above the audience, Flexion stretches one’s perception of the human body. Flexion will be performed each night at 9:00 PM on the north lawn of the DIA.

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