Highlights of the 2023 Mundial Montreal music festival

From Nov. 14 to 17, Mundial exposes Montreal to a multitude of genres, among them Brazilian Afrofuturism, Korean-Irish Pansori, Arabian fuzz and Black American jazz-fused hip hop — sometimes within a single night.

Mundial Montreal is more than a “world music festival.” For three days, it turns Montreal into a cultural melting pot, a space of international creativity made to celebrate different sounds throughout the world; sounds I guarantee you’ve never even dreamed would fit together. The public programming is also geared at packing in as much music as possible, blending together genres like Brazilian Afrofuturism with Korean-Irish Pansori or Arabian fuzz with Black American jazz-fused hip hop — within a single night.

So without further preamble, here are a few artists we recommend checking out at this year’s Mundial Montreal. 

Second Moon & Bruno Capinan

Starting us off is the aforementioned combination of Korean-Irish Pansori (basically narrative-heavy songs) in the form of Second Moon — a seven-piece that incorporates the ancient technique of Pansori with Irish instrumentation like the pan whistle, mandolin and bodhran, and tons of sporadic verse and stories. Founded by film and commercial producers Kim Hyun-bo and Park Jin-woo, Second Moon has created scores for popular Korean TV shows, and their performance feels more like a play than a concert. They are bringing their award-winning album Pansori Chunhyangga to this year’s Mundial Montreal. 

Next up is something completely different, Brazilian Afrofuturism, by one Bruno Capinan. Capinan uses their blend of tropicalia-inspired and bossa-nova rhythms and colourful performance as a form of LGBTQS+ resistance. Their voice may seem calm and pure but the messages in Capinan’s music inspired by pain and heavy undertones of societal inequality. Still, it’s easy to get lost in the trance of dance during the latest album Tara Rara. (Cabaret Lion d’Or, Nov. 14, 9 p.m.)

Johanna Juhola Trio

Crazy accordion flourishes under a backdrop of Argentinian and Finnish tango and folk music is one way to describe the music of Johanna Juhola. Along with her trio Roope Aarnio, a virtuoso guitarist, and soundscapist, Teemu Korpipää (who manipulates Juhola and Aarnio’s riffs and chords in real-time while adding some samples), the Johanna Juhola Trio is definitely unlike any “trio” you’ve ever witnessed before. Get ready for wondrous improvisations and synchronized chaos. (Quai des Brumes, Nov. 15, 2:30 p.m.)

Super Duty Tough Work & Al-Qasar

If you love a blend of East and West Coast hip hop with well-executed and jazzy instrumentation and old-school oddball scratching (that brings to mind someone like the Avalanches), then look no further than Super Duty Tough Work, an alternately six or eight-piece from Winnipeg, Manitoba. This collective sometimes sounds like old-head rappers such as Public Enemy but loves to blend vibey jazz instrumentation for a more modern sound. The new album, Paradigm Shift, is quite close to a masterpiece, with tons of contextual rhymes that stick in your mind.

Al-Qasar, a four-piece from Paris that combines Middle-Eastern psych, Arabian groove and African trance to create an unruly yet hypnotic wall of sound, happens to be on the same bill as Super Duty Tough Work. This is a go-to for fans of acts such as Mdou Moctar, Bombino or the now-defunct Kikagaku Moyo. If that doesn’t convince you, just know that it convinced Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo and the Dead Kennedys’ Jello Biafra, who guest on the latest Al-Qasar album, Who Are We? (Café Campus, Nov. 15, 8 p.m.)

Donald Dogbo & Lara Klaus

Donald Dogbo has become a favourite in the expanding jazz world, and for good reason. His blending of traditional African drumming and jazz fusion is truly a marvel. Born from a line of drummers that stretches to his great grandfather, Donald Dogbo has music in his blood and you see that while he mans the kit as a group of jazz virtuosos chew the sonic scenery. You may recognize songs from his 2021 album Coubli, or, in the true spirit of jazz, get a completely improvised experience. 

There is one more percussionist to pay attention to at this year’s Mundial Montreal, and that is Lara Klaus, a Brazilian multi-instrumentalist who dives into soothing yet wild indie soul pop. If you’ve ever walked the streets of Rio or dreamed of it, her music could easily be the soundtrack. It’s alluring and instrumentally quite impressive with enough rhythms to make your head spin, but at the same time, danceable. You will also see Lara jump on the guitar while drumming and singing, so it’s sure to be quite a show. (Studio TD, Nov. 16, 7:45 p.m.)

For more on Mundial Montreal, please visit their website.

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