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  Featured Artist

Photo credit: Oli Robbins
Tom Frouge in his Placitas home

Photos credit:—Band photos courtesy of !Globalquerque!
Two of many  bands to play ¡Globalquerque! 2014. (above top): Golem; (above) Sondorgo

A world of music made possible by visionary Tom Frouge

—Oli Robbins

Sometimes the most creative artists are invisible, working quietly behind the pomp and majesty. Tom Frouge is this kind of artist. His eyes and ears are tuned into the world around him, and they’re capable of spotting great talent and ensuring that it’s seen and heard. A Placitan since 2004, Tom is co-creator, co-curator, and co-presenter of ¡Globalquerque! He is also the driving force behind Avokado Artists. He is devoted to “cross-cultural understanding through art” and achieves this by culling artists—visual and musical—from all parts of the globe. If you’ve ever been to ¡Globalquerque! (and if you haven’t—make sure to spread your wings and dance to a myriad of beats at this year’s event), you’ve experienced the palpable dynamism, exhilaration, and gaiety generated by the event.

Tom’s colorful and extensive experiences with the world music industry have molded him into a passionate ethnomusicologist. He has worked as a guitarist and songwriter, as a radio music director, and in various roles at record companies. From Bridgeport, Connecticut, Tom felt drawn to and enlivened by music from a young age—“seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan at almost seven years old did it!,” says Tom.

Tom later played guitar in an American Roots band, but it wasn’t until he took a leap and quit his day job, working at an alternative newspaper, that he truly advanced his world music education. Tom was at home tweaking his resume when his friend—who was also the general manager at Connecticut-based American independent Celtic record label Green Linnet—called on him to help the company with a tedious job (specifically, slicing open CD boxes deemed too plastic-heavy and wasteful by the EPA). Before Green Linnet, remembers Tom, “I didn’t know anything about world music—except for The Beatles.” And that never-to-be-forgotten, “pretty awesome” radio interview with Ravi Shankar.

Tom eventually accepted a position as head of the warehouse at Green Linnet, with the caveat that there would be no “invisible fence between the warehouse and the office.” It wasn’t long until Tom became the warehouse guy who was also the go-to guy for sales advice. After only two months in the warehouse, his aptitude was acknowledged and praised, and he advanced to national director of promotions. The next decade saw Tom overseeing several music labels, networking at conferences, managing different groups, and eventually moving to Los Angeles and then New Mexico, where he ran a division of LA record label Triloka. Tom had wanted to live in New Mexico since visiting the state on a cross country trip in ’79. “It just took me 25 years to get here,” says Tom.

Soon after moving to NM, Tom attended a conference in New York City that included a world music showcase event called globalFest. Tom had one of those “aha!” moments when he pictured a similar festival in New Mexico, and ¡Globalquerque! was conceived.

After the conference, at home in Placitas, Tom was inspired. His momentum to create a world music festival remained strong, and he busied himself with attaining support from the city, finding a perfect venue in the National Hispanic Cultural Center and meeting ¡Globalquerque! partner Neil Cooperman. The ¡Globalquerque! seed was planted in January, and the first festival took place in September. The first ¡Globalquerque! was a one-day showcase event with around a dozen performers. The second year, ¡Globalquerque! emerged as the festival it is today—a festival that harmoniously blends different world cultures in the already hybridic state of New Mexico. Says Tom, “I didn’t just want to present the world to New Mexico. I wanted to present New Mexico to the world.”

“From the beginning,” says Tom, “I wanted to have New Mexican traditional, New Mexican contemporary, and Native American music represented... There is really no festival that has taken native (American) music and put it in a broader context, as world music. This is unique about ¡Globalquerque!” And New Mexico is well-suited for such a festival. Says Tom, “of the contiguous states in the country, the two that are the most similar are Louisiana and New Mexico. Both exist because of cultural collisions that didn’t exist elsewhere. Those collisions created cuisines, certain accents . . . and music.”

¡Globalquerque! proved to be not only a professional triumph, but a personal one as well. It was there, at the 2008 festival, that Tom met his wife, accomplished painter Jade Leyva. Leyva attended the 2008 event to see Mexican-American singer Lila Downs, and fortuitously approached Tom to thank him for assembling such an outstanding show, giving him one of her cards to keep in touch. Every year, Tom and Neil select a different New Mexico artist to create the poster art for ¡Globalquerque!, and after viewing Jade’s vibrant and melodious paintings on her website, Tom trusted that Jade could visually articulate ¡Globalquerque!’s spirited and integrative character. Jade took on the commission with fervency, and out of it blossomed a friendship and marriage.

In addition to co-presenting ¡Globalquerque!, Avokado Artists—founded in 2004—manages visual and musical artists and produces a variety of musical performances, outreach programs, and community projects—like SEEDS: A Collective Voice, which focuses on promoting sustainability and seed preservation through its community seed murals. Avokado is currently working on bringing music into the Bernalillo County Detention Center, and is also teaming up again with the National Hispanic Cultural Center to present two new music series: New Latin Music Series and Latin Diva Series.

Be sure to attend ¡Globalquerque! on September 19 and 20. You can view the musical lineup and get tickets at A couple of weeks later, on November 9, head back to the National Hispanic Cultural Center to be witness to what’s sure to be the first of many epic New Latin Music concerts, featuring young Chilean guitarist and songwriter Nano Stern.

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