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While the Concert of Colors is a much bigger event than it was 25 years ago, the main idea behind the festival hasn’t changed all that much. 

“The Concert of Colors started out as a way for Detroit communities of color to share their cultures and invite others to come and enjoy what they have to offer,” says festival founder Ismael Ahmed. “The festival has grown to embrace all the ethnicities of the world, but the idea to bring people together and build friendships hasn’t changed,” he says of the event that runs from July 12th through 16th. 

“Most of what we’ve brought to the Concert of Colors are completely new things to most people,” says Ahmed. “We’ve had African acts that fill soccer stadiums, but not many people have heard of them here.” 

It's this eclectic mix of world music and Detroit artists that are the festival’s foundation, and the many different food and merchandise options for sale provides opportunities to introduce other parts of the world to Detroit audiences—and keep audiences returning year after year.

14718973475 3529c89467 oThe Third Coast Kings during the 22nd Concert of Colors

In its 25 years of existence, the Concert of Colors has never devoted a specific “theme” to the entire festival. This year is a little different because so much of the programming is centered on trying to contextualize the Summer of 1967, one of the many community-wide events taking place this summer in conjunction with the Detroit 67 Project

For Ahmed, seeing how all the events will come together is very exciting. 

“The Concert of Colors is taking place almost 50 years ago to the day of the rebellion in 1967,” he says. “A lot of the programming, including Friday’s collaboration between the museums, will be very much about (the rebellion). I’m looking forward to how all that happens and takes place.” 

While the Concert of Colors is produced by the Arab American National Museum (AANM), the majority of the events take place throughout the abundance of cultural centers in Midtown Detroit who serve as event partners. Attendees will have the chance to see shows at Third Man Records (a new venue this year) and the Detroit Symphony's Orchestra Hall, attend a dialogue on community, culture and race—“Art and Rebellion: Detroit Since ‘67” with a keynote from Dr. Thomas Sugrue at AANM, and see film screenings at the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA). 

This year, on Friday night, July 14th, Midtown’s museum district will turn into a block party of sorts. This is a collaboration between the DIA, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, the Detroit Historical Museum and the Michigan Science Center. The street behind the DIA, John R., will be closed between Farnsworth and Warren. While the DIA and the Wright have been involved in the Concert of Colors in years past, this is the first year for both MiSci and DHM. 

“There’s going to be one big stage outside of the Science Center and then an after-party at the Historical Museum,” Ahmed says. 

The night kicks off with music from Onyx Ashanti, continues with performances from Efe Bes and Kuumba, and ends with Griot Galaxy. DJ Michael Elliott headlines the after-party, which also includes free admission to the Detroit 67: Perspectives exhibit. 

14715806511 5e5d4557ec oDon Was Detroit All-Star Revue at the 22nd Concert of Colors.

Saturday will also be overflowing with musical performances. The main event is the 10th edition of the Don Was Detroit All-Star Revue: Music of Rebellion. With Orchestra Hall as the backdrop, music legend Don Was is facilitating a huge performance with some of the best artists in the area—backed by an incredible house band that includes Luis Resto on keys, Rayse Biggs on trumpet, Ron Panghorn on drums and Was playing bass, Detroit artists such as Jessica Care Moore, Mahogany Jones, John Sinclair and Dennis Coffey will perform, each bringing their unique talent and approach to music to the stage. 

The festival, all of which is free, represents the diverse array of musical traditions that make up Detroit's musical heritage, going strong for a quarter century.

Photos courtesy of Tonya Moutzalias.

To see the full Concert of Colors schedule, click here