It seems like forever since there has been a genuine, full-featured, over-the-top, loud and proud, HONK ! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville. Haven’t you missed the irresistible sounds and spectacle of outrageous and unruly brass bands and percussion ensembles, accompanied by gigantic puppets, flag twirlers, street dancers, stilt walkers, hula hoopers, and bike ballets. Well, WE’RE BACK! This year we are proud to present the 17th Annual HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands on October 7th to 9th. And you’re invited! Come for the music, make some art, march in the parade, build community, and stand up for social justice — all for free. Of course, we’re still gonna pay attention to pandemic trends, follow the science, and take reasonable precautions, but WE’RE BACK! So save the date and join us in October.
As you may recall, back in 2020, all the HONK! Festivals across the globe – nearly two dozen events at the time – had to be canceled because of the pandemic. The Somerville HONK! Organizing Committee responded by putting out the word to all the festivals and bands that we wanted to stage a virtual festival on the weekend that would have been our festival that we would stream across the globe. Everyone was invited. We called it HONK!United . We expected maybe a dozen or so bands to submit videos that would fill a day of programming and perhaps an additional day for virtual workshops. What we got filled eight days of programming with 70 bands participating from all seven continents – yes, even Antarctica fielded a band … for about 30 seconds, until their valves froze. It’s all archived on our HONK! YouTube Channel .
HONK!United was a transformative event and incredibly rewarding for everyone involved. Out of adversity came opportunity. It made us realize just how large and diverse a movement we had become and created an unprecedented self-consciousness of HONK! as a global phenomenon. It also brought new and exciting participants, ideas, and perspectives into the HONK! orbit. And we were able to take some of those ideas into HONK! 2021.
Although we were able to return to a live festival in 2021, the pandemic suggested a more decentralized festival attracting smaller crowds. Again necessity proved to be the mother of invention, as the constraints of the pandemic enabled us to establish deeper relationships with a greater diversity of organizations and communities and the issues that affect them. We sent bands into Chelsea, East Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge, with a major presence in Nubian Square in Roxbury, to address issues of healthcare for all, the climate catastrophe, the affordable housing crisis, mutual aid, and prison reform. And as per our experience with HONK!United, much of this festival was live-streamed for those who couldn’t attend every event in person.
For 2022, we will be returning to a more recognizable HONK! format, but with an eye toward incorporating lessons learned from 2020 and 2021. There will be a Friday evening HONK! showcasing bands of particular interest; the usual continuous free performances and art-making activities all day in Davis Square on Saturday; and the venerable Sunday HONK! Parade down Massachusetts Avenue, followed by a full afternoon of HONK! performances in Harvard Square. But there’s more!
For the first time this year, we are planning to introduce a team of HONK! volunteers trained in de-escalation, marshaling and community security to help keep HONK! running smoothly and safely. And we are planning to activate Harvard Square to a greater extent than ever by taking over Winthrop Park with and for progressive political organizations, unions, and community groups working on issues of equity and social justice. Let’s make time to make some “good trouble” – all within the HONK! culture of participatory music-making and dancing in the streets.
For 2022, we have chosen to focus primarily on regional bands, but with some notable international additions. There will be groups that have become HONK! mainstays, who may be familiar, but who continue to sound fresh. And given HONK!’s recent international expansion, we have once again journeyed to the southern hemisphere to present two outstanding international bands: One from Latin America, and the other from Africa.
Banda Rim Bam Bum is a brass ensemble from Santiago, Chile, that draws inspiration from the essence of Carnival to create a unique and compelling musical statement influenced by musics from different cultures of Latin America and around the world. We fell in love with Rim Bam Bum from the moment we first heard them at HONK!TX in 2018 and we have been trying to arrange for them to come to Somerville ever since. Their stage craft and musicianship are as strong as their commitment to progressive politics in Chile. What could be more HONK!-ish.
Because of our deep commitment to the music and culture of New Orleans, we are also pleased to welcome the Young Fellaz Brass Band back to the Festival. They will bring the second line tradition and their repertoire of New Orleans funk to Somerville. HONK! fans should be prepared to be blown away by their talent and energy, yet again.
HONK! is a volunteer effort and a labor of love. An all-volunteer Organizing Committee works crazy hours all year long to develop and maintain long-term relationships with dozens of volunteers, local businesses, music venues, city administrations, social service agencies, unions, neighborhood groups, and progressive political organizations. Local businesses donate food. Neighbors open their homes to visiting musicians. Even the bands play for free.
But HONK! does not fall from the sky. There are expenses. We subsidize travel where necessary to ensure that all the bands can make the journey. We house and feed hundreds of musicians for three days or more. Then there are the costs of permitting, music venues, public works, and traffic details. These things can run up quite a tab.
This is where you come in. This GoFundMe sends funds to us via Great Small Works, our 501(c)(3) fiscal sponsor. We need to raise an additional $12,000 to cover our budget. Every tax-deductible donation — your donation — will help.
Please act now and HONK! you very much for your generosity. Together we can make the world a safer, better place – and have fun doing it.