Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 1, 2023

Baltimore Rhythm Festival enlivens Greenmount West

By SHUBHA VERMA | September 19, 2019



The rhythm festival brought good vibes to the Baltimore Montessori school.

As a girl from a small town in the Midwest, free live music is one of the things I looked forward to most upon moving to a city. Each Thursday, I scroll through the events page on Facebook looking for a free experience to go to with my friends. 

This past weekend, Baltimore Montessori Public Charter School held the annual Baltimore Rhythm Festival. Although the festival is within walking distance (about one mile away from campus) we decided to ride the Charm City Circulator’s purple line down to Penn Station to get a free head start. Our total commute time shrunk from over 30 minutes to just over 10, and, we were still fresh for the festival when we arrived.

The rhythm festival is far from the typical idea of a music festival nowadays. Instead of loud, sweaty and crazy, the environment is relaxed, and it took place in the playground of an elementary school. While children went down slides, their parents grooved to the beats and watched the performers. Surrounding the playground were stands where local artisans sold crafts and trinkets.

As somebody who hadn’t been to events like this one in the past, I had no idea what to expect. I figured that there would be music and people coming and going throughout the day. What I got was a very peaceful environment, beautiful and rhythmic music and a sunny day. I couldn’t have asked for more.

There were multiple stages: a yard stage, street stage and open stage. The yard and street stages had local performers and bands performing their music throughout the day, and the open stage gave anyone an opportunity to perform their own rap, song or spoken word. Aside from the stages, there was an all-day drum circle dedicated to keeping the beat alive.

Although the music isn’t like what I would normally listen to, it definitely lived up to the expectation that there would be rhythm. Venturing outside of my typical music taste for the day also allowed me a chance to appreciate a different style of an art form I love while supporting local artists.

The premise of the festival is for anyone to enjoy African rhythms and music. The attendees at the festival obviously came from different backgrounds, but everyone was quickly welcomed.

The entire festival drew inspiration from African culture. The artists sang songs to the beats of African drums including djembes, bougarabous, dununs and talking drums. Some of the stands surrounding the courtyard sold items such as traditional African head wraps, waist beads, art pieces and dashiki. The performers also take part in displaying African culture by wearing traditional African clothes, beads and head dresses. 

When we arrived, Ubaka Hill was performing on the yard stage. We stayed for her performance, and enjoyed it peacefully from a spot in the back of the yard. Although plenty of people were doing the same, Hill encouraged people to dance.

Slowly, she had gathered several people in front of the stage dancing either in partners or groups. As she sang and spoke, five people sat behind her playing cowbells and various drums. She herself drummed along while she wasn’t singing. In comparison to popular live artists with theatrics, lights and sound equipment, her performance was filled with soul and pure talent. 

While we left the festival, one of my friends reminded our group that no outing is complete without cool pictures. 

Although the festival itself wasn’t conducive to pictures, the surrounding area has cool street art, painted fences and even Graffiti Alley. So, before we headed back to Penn Station to catch our train to campus, we stopped by some aesthetic locations to take pictures.

I took the pleasure of researching this upcoming weekend for you, so check out the Charm City Night Market, HampdenFest or free admission at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum. All of them are happening this Saturday near campus, so gather some friends and figure out how you want to spend your study break.

During your time at Hopkins, it’s extremely important to take advantage of all the amazing things that Baltimore has to offer. We get access to the entire city for a low cost. Every week there are events happening in the various neighborhoods, so stay connected and do your best to escape the Hopkins bubble.

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