Youssou N'Dour, Talib Kweli and Andrew Bird Set for BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival

Youssou N'Dour performs on the Open Air stage as he headlines Womad at Charlton Park on July 26, 2014 in Wiltshire, United Kingdom.
Samir Hussein/Getty Images

Youssou N'Dour performs on the Open Air stage as he headlines Womad at Charlton Park on July 26, 2014 in Wiltshire, United Kingdom.  

A summer festival season is not typically announced with an expression of political resistance. But for the richly diverse BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival -- staged in a New York City borough of 2.6 million where nearly 40 percent of the population are immigrants -- the phrase heard was fitting in the current political climate.

"This is what democracy looks like," said festival senior artistic advisor Rachel Chanoff, joined by performing arts vp and executive producer Jack Walsh at the BRIC House performance space in downtown Brooklyn Monday evening, as the two announced the festival's 39th season.

Among the highlights are performances by New Orleans' Soul Rebels with Brooklyn rapper Talib Kweli, Senegalese superstar Youssou N’Dour, Mexican folk artist Lila Downs, Beirut-based rockers Mashrou' Leila and a screening of the civil rights drama Selma with live musical accompaniment by film score composer Jason Moran and the Wordless Music Orchestra.

Presented by BRIC, a non-profit and leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, the Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival is staged n Brooklyn’s Prospect Park in the neighborhood of Park Slope. A synagogue in Park Slope, Congregation Beth Elohim, has become a center of activism opposed to the policies of President Donald Trump, including his moves to restrict immigration and deport undocumented residents.

While the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival has reflected the remarkable diversity of its home borough since its launch in 1979, this year’s lineup was booked as a subtle but strong artistic message of inclusion, says Chanoff.

Brooklyn's Lake Street Dive will open the festival season June 7. As crowds converge for the free performance, an opening-night fundraising gala will honor Chris Sheehan of Union Beer Distributors and the Sheehan Family Companies, longtime sponsors of the festival.

Among the season's 25 free shows, other highlights include: a family concert by Lisa Loeb; a tribute to John Coltrane, headlined by Pharoah Sanders; a dance performance by Pilobolus; rising reggae star Chronixx; Andrew Bird and Esperanza Spalding, and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones.

Ticketed benefit shows include the Shins (June 15), Planetarium (featuring Sufjan Stevens) (July 18), Conor Oberst with Hop Along and Big Thief (July 20), Sylvan Esso (July 26) and Fleet Foxes (Aug. 1 and 2).

In the crowded summer festival season, BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! stands apart, not just because because of its 39-year history (which makes it one of the nation’s longest-running free summer festivals). As Brooklyn’s cachet as a center of musical culture has grown in recent years, the reputation of Celebrate Brooklyn! has risen in turn. After debuting in 1979 during a darker economic era for New York City, in an effort to draw visitors back into Prospect Park, the festival both boosted and benefited from the renaissance of Brooklyn. 

The full festival season is available here.

The Prospect Park Bandshell in its natural state:


The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to

To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.