After almost 30 years of presenting live music and dance from around the world at venues all around Greater Boston, World Music/CRASHArts is changing its name to Global Arts Live, a moniker that the organization hopes will boost its name recognition and better reflect its mission.
Essentially, the Cambridge-based organization isn’t changing what it’s doing, explained executive director and founder Maure Aronson over the phone from London. “We will continue to present a very eclectic and diverse program of artists from the United States and all over the world.”
That said, the name change is a logical evolution, board president Nagesh Mahanthappa said. “[The institution] really warranted a name that reflects that diversity of programming, with an emphasis on truly being artistic innovation, presented live.”
Global Arts Live, which Aronson launched in 1990 as World Music, has presented the Boston debuts of such international artists as South African choral group Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Cuban classicists Buena Vista Social Club, and qawwali master Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. In 2002, after the organization added contemporary dance to its lineup, it became World Music/CRASHArts, a name Aronson coined while walking his dog.
The “double-barrel name” was posing problems, said Aronson. Working with a focus group four years ago in the organization’s first foray into market research, “it became very apparent that there was a lack of recognition for World Music/CRASHArts at the time, and what we were doing in Boston.” Global Arts Live, Aronson said, should bring more brand awareness to the programs the organization presents. (CRASHfest, the group’s annual indoor global music festival, will retain its name.)
Mahanthappa thinks that the new name also helps divest Global Arts Live from the folkloric or traditional artforms some might associate with world music, a term that he said has lost much of its meaning. “These are artists who are creating work today, drawing upon their cultural background, the geographies from which they hail — but they’re creating new work.”
Aronson, a native of South Africa, said that world music was a new term when he established the organization. In the ensuing years, “our name became a genre . . . and didn’t really reflect on what we were doing,” he said. The organization has been stretching into indie and jazz; this year alone, it hosted artists such as looping cellist Zoë Keating, jazz trio Bangs, and Cambridge-based silent film band Alloy Orchestra in addition to various acts from overseas, including Irish music supergroup The Gloaming and Zimbabwean band Mokoomba.
From a curatorial perspective, amplifying each artist’s unique voice is more important than fitting into a set genre, Aronson said. “We provide a platform for artists who share their vision,” he explained. “For me that’s what good art is.”
In addition, the name change arrives amid a period of evolution and growth for the organization. With help from a grant as part of the Arts Capacity Building Initiative of the Barr and Klarman Family Foundations, the organization commissioned San Francisco dance company Alonzo King LINES Ballet and renowned tabla player Zakir Hussain, giving them total artistic freedom to collaborate on an original work which premiered at the Institute of Contemporary Art last year. It was the first such venture for the organization, which until recently has almost exclusively worked with touring acts.
“We fully intend to keep commissioning new works,” said Mahanthappa. “We’re moving beyond . . . presenting, and participating in the facilitation and the creation of new work as well.”
Details of Global Arts Live’s 2019-20 season will be announced in early June. Tickets will go on sale to members first, and the general public two weeks later.