Global Village unites Philly creatives

Through collaborative jam sessions, the Global Village draws artists, musicians

A singer belts a tune during a Global Village jam session at Life Do Grow Farm at 11th and Dauphin streets. | ANGELA GERVASI / THE TEMPLE NEWS

On Thursday nights, the Global Village throbs with energy.

“It’s controlled chaos,” said Pablo Maldonado, a sophomore English major who began working with the Village last April. “You feel it in your chest, like it beats, and like, you go with it and it carries you, and it gets loud and it gets passionate.”

The Global Village, an entertainment and wellness group based in Philadelphia, has been organizing bi-weekly jam sessions since last December, giving artists an opportunity to collaborate on the spot.

A concoction of sound — a guitar, a hand drum, a clarinet — drifts into the evening air. Singers, rappers and poets swap microphones. A painter brushes streaks of pink and black onto a canvas. Photographers and videographers circle the crowd with cameras and tripods.

“It’s almost like a release, and it’s like, very therapeutic in a way,” said Brielle Bryson, a senior film major who works as the Village’s videographer.

At most musical performances, the audience watches. Jam sessions are different: everyone is encouraged to contribute, said co-founder Lyonzo Vargas.

“I wanted to make an event where everybody could perform at the same time,” Vargas said.

The jam sessions unfurl in different spaces: at loft apartments, in warehouses, in coffee shops. On some summer nights, the Global Village combines music and art at Life Do Grow Farm, just northeast of Main Campus at the corner of 11th and Dauphin streets.

“Having it at the farm specifically gives it an energy that is really different from a bar or a club,” said Jeaninne Kayembe.

Kayembe works as co-director at Philly Urban Creators, a community organization that established Life Do Grow Farm and has partnered with Global Village. For her, the urban farm is a perfect stage for the Village’s music.

“Like agriculture is an ancestral practice, music is an ancestral practice,” Kayembe said.

This weekend, the Global Village will have a new performing space: the Budweiser Made in America Festival on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Philly Urban Creators will have a tent space with other nonprofit organizations, Kayembe said. She plans to pick up the farm and simply bring it to Made in America, embellishing the tent with sunflowers, herbs and homemade mint tea. She also plans to bring Global Village there for a jam session.

The combination of farming, music and art is one that will stand out at the festival.

“No one’s going to be doing this at any of their tents at all,” Kayembe said.

Maldonado, who works as the Village’s project manager, hopes to host a jam on Main Campus — whether it happens in a classroom or on Beury Beach.

“Temple hosts a community of creatives,” Maldonado said. “That’s kind of my baby. I just want to unite these artists.”

The idea to start the Global Village came to Vargas after a sweltering trip to his mother’s hometown in Honduras.

There, Vargas was exposed to poverty — and people’s willingness to share what little resources they had. One day, a mechanic fixing the air conditioning for Vargas’s aunt had nothing to eat for dinner. Vargas watched as his aunt cooked for the mechanic.

“That’s when it clicked to me,” Vargas said. “There’s more value than actual currency.”

When he returned to America, he began searching for a way to promote what he calls “resource sharing.” Working alongside co-founders Raphael Jones and Miyekow Acquaa, Vargas began crafting the Global Village.

“It brings everybody back to their roots,” Vargas said. He often wears a headband of black, white and yellow — the official colors of Garifuna, an Afro-Caribbean ethnic group to which his family belongs. “It’s something that’s familiar, but unfamiliar as well.”

The first jam session took place at Rec Philly, a performance space near 9th and Dauphin streets last December. About four people showed up.

“It was new, very new for us,” Acquaa said.

Still, Vargas keeps a photograph of the first jam as his phone background: a reminder of where and how the organization began.

Months later, dozens of people attend. As a jam session unfurled at the Painted Bride Art Center late August, the blue-walled room quickly became crowded.

“Ay, move the couch back,” said Jones, in an effort to make more space.

In seconds, the simple sentence dissolved into improvised music. Rhythmic shouts of, “Move the couch back!” grew louder. A drummer and bass player joined the commotion.

“You get really new, innovative art when you put together the creative minds and various cultures and backgrounds and feelings,” Maldonado said.

As each jam session winds down, Vargas leads a meditation session. Musicians, artists and observers join hands for several minutes. For Vargas, it’s important that the attendees reflect after gathering to create music.

“The amazing event happened, they get that two to five minutes to soak it in, and they leave,” Vargas said. “It’s in them.”

“And it feels great to know that people fully took in the jam and that’s it, that’s the experience,” he added.

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