Inaugural Mosaic food and music festival draws a large and diverse crowd

by Ryan Snyder

Ndabarushimana Christopher gives a stellar performance at the inaugural Mosaic Festival. (photo by Ryan Snyder)

Extra-cultural exploration is peaking thanks to the World Cup mania that’s overtaking America (heh), lending the perfect environment for the inaugural Mosaic Festival to attract over a thousand people from more than a dozen different cultures to downtown Greensboro’s Festival Park. The festival, organized by local refugee resettlement agency Church World Service, served as an observance of Greensboro’s rich diversity, Amidst the vendors selling foreign treats like momo (stuffed dumplings), samosas (fried pastries), Nigerian festival waffles, scotch eggs and insanely sticky rice balls stuffed with coconut and brown sugar was a parade of musicians and dancers from all over the world. Artists from Burma, Bhutan and Burundi joined a handful of homegrown Greensboro acts over the course of the three-hour festival, with local politically conscious percussion collective Cakalak Thunder providing beats during intermissions. Of note also was that the Thunder counts a Bosnian refugee among its membership.

The evening’s music began with a song by Bhutanese actor, songwriter and expatriate Nar Mainaliin his native language.

Mainali sang over an instrumental track, but his stage presence and unreserved dance showed that he was clearly possessed by the song. One of the best performances of the evening came from Burundi’s Ndabarushimana Christopher, whose tribal dress and acoustic guitar work drew huge applause from the crowd. He was accompanied by a bevy of dancers, percussionists and a full backing band during his performance of songs from his self-titled album that including an inspired cover of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.”

The evening was capped off by a performance by cover band par excellence the Hall Monitors, though surely, attendees at some point during the evening asked themselves, “What does Walrus and the Hall Monitors have to do with the celebration of Greensboro’s diversity?” Put in the proper perspective, the culmination in such a thoroughly American institution as the classic-rock cover band was just as much an important representation of the city’s diversity for an audience comprised of half ethnic refugees and their families and half naturalborn citizens.

People who spend half their lives in refugee encampments rarely, if ever, get to indulge in the pleasures of hearing Tom Petty’s “American Girl,” the Beatles’ “Come Together” and the Police’s “When the World is Running Down,” the latter of which surely resonated the most with many of the onlookers. As always, Walrus still connected with the crowd through his blithe onstage demeanor, even having half a dozen children onstage toward the end “assisting” him on djembe.

Whether or not the Hall Monitors’ set list was vetted beforehand was uncertain, though his inclusion of Al Green’s “Sexual Healing” lends the belief that maybe he wasn’t aware that the crowd was full of church folk and representatives from the Islamic Center of Greensboro. Given that Walrus is far more likely to be heard working a Ladies’ Night than a Sisters’ Class, the Hall Monitors are the ones getting a pass this time around.