All the world’s on stage for Concert of Colors international music festival

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published July 12, 2017

DETROIT — Even if your budget limits your summer travel to metro Detroit, you can still experience the sounds and cultures of the world during the Concert of Colors.

Produced by the Arab American National Museum, the free celebration of all types of music from all across the globe marks its 25th anniversary this July 12-16 with a series of free concerts, film screenings and programs at venues primarily in and around Midtown Detroit.

Artists including the Zimbabwe Afro-fusion band Mokoomba; the Latin jazz of the Big 3 Palladium Orchestra; the gospel and blues vocals of Grammy Award-nominated Sweet Honey in the Rock; the R&B/soul/folk/Native American inflections of Martha Redbone; and the roots-meets-punk-meets-hip-hop of Las Cafeteras are among the headliners this year.

Visitors also will hear jazz, R&B, rock, spoken word, electronic/experimental, Indian fusion and much more by artists ranging from hometown heroes like the Sun Messengers to international star and Grammy nominee Rocky Dawuni, of Ghana.

This is also the 10th anniversary of the Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue, organized by rock legend and super producer Was, a metro Detroit native who in recent years has worked with Neil Diamond, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Bette Midler, Van Morrison and Niall Horan, to name a few. The Revue — which will take place at 8 p.m. July 15 at Orchestra Hall — will focus on the music of rebellion, with an eclectic lineup of artists and a house band that includes greats such as keyboardist Luis Resto, guitarist Brian Roscoe White and trumpet player Rayse Biggs.

Because this marks the 50th anniversary of Detroit’s 1967 riots/rebellion — those who lived through it have conflicting opinions on what it should be called — that pivotal moment in the city’s history will be explored in a series of programs, including a White Panther Party reunion panel July 15 at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History featuring Pun Plamondon, Leni Sinclair, Genie Parker and John Sinclair.

Venues also include the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Historical Museum and the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center — home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and encompassing Orchestra Hall.

The festival offers audiences an opportunity to hear and see artists with whom they might not be familiar.

“I would advise people to take a look at the full festival schedule and attend anything that is of interest,” festival co-coordinator Kathryn Grabowski said in an email interview. “We particularly recommend trying something new! The beauty of this festival is that it is completely free and is a special opportunity to experience such diverse programming in Detroit’s most revered cultural institutions.”

Ralph Valdez, of Grosse Pointe Woods, who has been the festival coordinator since 2007, said that an estimated 60,000 attend programs at the Max, but when the other venues are factored in, attendance is likely more than 100,000. Multicultural vendors add to the festivities, and Grabowski said this is a “family friendly” event that draws many parents and youngsters.

“The Concert of Colors began as a neighborhood community park gathering to connect various cultures through their music and food, but has grown from its humble beginnings to now include the best national and local talent, along with even bigger names from the world music stage,” Valdez said in an email interview. “The festival has stayed true to its positive mission of bringing diverse communities together while expanding partnerships with even more Detroit venues — Third Man Records, Detroit Historical Museum and Michigan Science Center are new this year and welcomed by our other ongoing partners and venues from Dearborn to midtown Detroit.

“The Concert of Colors is proud of the wide mix of people who attend the festival, enjoying themselves dancing, listening, eating, playing and experiencing a whole exciting world of different groups that bridge the gaps of our different creative cultures while celebrating our profound similarities.”

Valdez said organizers are grateful they’ve seen the festival “grow in quality, attendance and support over its 25-year history,” while still remaining a free event.

A highlight for many is the Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue.

“I think deep down, Detroit is not only a music-loving town but an incredibly knowledgeable town of music lovers who see in their hometown hero, Don Was, someone who also has deep love, knowledge and respect for the immense talent Detroit has produced through the years,” Valdez said via email. “They love to help Don shine a spotlight on Detroit’s rich musical history, and every year, he and his band, and his hand-picked pool of local talent, seem to somehow manage to put on an even more jaw-dropping, spectacular show than the previous year!”

Since many attendees will arrive by driving, organizers recommend scoping out parking in advance.

“Parking varies based on location, so be sure to take a look at venue websites for more information on parking,” Grabowski said. “We also recommend using the QLINE where possible, as much of the festival will happen near Woodward Avenue in Midtown.”

A signature summer event that unites the community through the universal language of music, the festival continues to excite, entertain and engage audiences of all ages.

“The Concert of Colors has seen Detroit through many ups and downs and has remained a constant and consistently positive force in the city deserving of, and appreciative of, all the love that it receives from folks from around the city, the state, the country and the world,” Valdez said.

Although all programs are free and open to the public, reservations are needed for most panels and workshops. For a full schedule, venue information or to make reservations, visit or see the Concert of Colors Facebook page. This year’s hashtag is #ConcertofColors25.