Comfort and joy, breaking third-wall, global barriers, speaking truth in art to power, piercing the veil between us and them…Performing artists invite you into their moving, transformative, pulse-pounding spaces this 2022-2023 season at the historic, world-class, 700-seat Edmonds Center for the Arts — once home to the original Edmonds High School.

ECA announced its exciting new season publicly in June, previewing 27 new shows in a wide variety of styles, genres, and expressions that encompass dance, Spoken Word, music, comedy, and dramatic reinvention.

A sampling of what’s in store:

Orquesta Akokán makes retro-inspired son cubano mambo a captivating reality in a swashbuckling swath of caressing horns, syncopated heartbeats, sticks and ruby stones, and sweet-lover lead vocals…folklore with layered groove. The Havana, Cuba big band led by vocalist José “Pepito” Gómez kicked off a world tour earlier in 2022 in support of 16 Rayos on Daptone Records, a grand follow-up to its Grammy-nominated, Oct. 22, 2021 debut. Orquesta Akokán (from the heart in the Yoruba language) drops in on ECA, Sept. 28.

You're going to do a pleasant double-take with Duplessy & Violins of The World (“Brothers in Arms,” “Petard Chinois”). This other-worldly, yet down-to-earth strumming-and-fiddling quartet has an uncanny ability to put a smile on your face and a genteel lift in your step, through the most unconventional means. 

Take the driving, floral galloping rhythms of French Gypsy guitarist/composer Mathias Duplessy and blend them with violinists from America, China, and Mongolia (Casey Driessen on fiddle; Guo Gan, Erhu; Enkhjargal “Epi” Dandarvaanchig, horse-headed fiddle/throat singing), and you have a cool, multi-ethnic vibe set to a Top 40 world music dance track from 1960s instrumental-pop jazz and a future where there are no labels or divisions other than what sounds infinitely soothing to the soul. 

The cross-cultural string troupe tours the U.S. for the first time this fall, debuting at ECA Nov. 4.

Black Opry Revue gives a different, broader perspective of country music, influenced by the juicy blues, and the Americana-folk storytelling of old — true roots reaching out in a resurrection of hard-fought, hard-won pride, diversity you can touch and feel and breathe down to your core, and an underlying, apostate groove born to everyone, regardless of race, color, or creed. 

Musicians Chris Pierce, Lauren Napier, breathtaking fingerstyle guitarist/soulful, tang-and-twang vocalist Jett Holden, and Julie Williams bring their own personalized renditions and revelations to country music, reclaiming their rightful place up front and center at ECA, Nov. 12

The Black Opry collective provides a much-needed, long-overlooked venue for country-loving black artists, industry professionals, and fans.

The ECA plays for laughs, too. The International Comedy Competition, Nov. 16, and God Is a Scottish Drag Queen, Nov. 19, serve as great stress relievers in a most stressful time.

The 42nd annual Seattle International Comedy Competition returns, as semi-finalists seek to tickle your funny bone with their 10-minute routines on opening night for cash prizes and fame. Who knows, you just may witness the next Kevin Hart or Carol Burnett.

Eighteen-time “Best of Fest” winner, Canadian comedian Mike Delamont (Atomic Vaudeville) puts on quite a belly-laugh of a one-man show, riffing about pop culture, life, and our crazy human race as God, a Scottish drag queen...unadulterated and out there.

Enlightenment, empowerment, and encouragement have never sounded more lyrically current and all-inclusive than when the Alphabet Rockers take to the stage. The premiere children’s hip-hop collective visits ECA next in a Nov. 19th Saturday Matinee, a fun, empathic experience for the whole family. 

Through R&B soul and hip hop, Oakland, CA-based founders Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd’s inter-generational, Grammy-nominated music raises the divergent voices of The Other, fusing individuals into a strong collective, forged on respect, honesty, healing, growth, flow, and love, their love. 

The Alphabet Rockers draw on experiences and skills in playwriting, acting, composing, rapping/beatboxing, writing, and musicianship to convey/imprint important social justice messages, creatively, in ways that count.

Holiday concerts are one-of-a-kind, immersive experiences, connecting Edmonds to exceptional people and places from different worlds, whether on a tropical island oceans apart, or just around the corner from our childhood memories. 

This holiday season, thrill to three-time Grammy-winning Hawaiian recording artist Kalani Pe'a’s Christmas Show, Dec. 1, and Karla Bonoff and Livingston Taylor’s Home for the Holidays, Dec. 21.

Hilo-born native Pe'a’s (Aloha & Mahalo II) gently gliding soft falsetto rises and falls to a swaying, graceful hula rhythm, floating above warmly flickering guitar strings, and majestic harmonies — the sounds of Aloha, Hawaiian contemporary soul — immediately conjuring mountain breezes, fragrant pikake leis, sleek, cloudless blue skies, and an inviting, glistening surf below. His lilting, tradewind-kissed voice and timeless songs of love and forever, Christmas classics in Hawaiian and English, and local favorites, serve as a virtual trip for the senses.

When composer and singer meet in the middle of a wonderful entanglement, it’s magic onstage, as fans of Bonoff and Taylor can attest.

Known primarily as a singer’s songwriter, Bonoff lends her beautiful, knowing voice to holiday classics, wrapping meaning around every lyric in a velvety embrace.

Brother of James Taylor, Livingston (“I Will Be In Love With You”) in turn weaves folksy significance to the fleeting, rolling, visionary stories of everyday people finding themselves in states of natural bliss.

Together, Bonoff and Taylor breathe new life into old wintry tunes like “Silent Night,” as well as walks down memory lane, reviving childhood fantasies and lost loves in the soundtrack of our lives.

Bodies seem to shed flesh, undergoing spiritual transformation to tell the ancient story of the Indigenous People’s trek from salt water to fresh water, the Atlantic to the Great Lakes, as they encounter the trades of civilization in all its mystical-to-colonial incarnations. 

The dancers of Red Sky Performance, together with musicians, unravel the glory of water and Indigenous prophecy through dance, athleticism, and the alchemy that occurs whenever two or more are gathered with purpose, and grace, in Sandra Laronde’s “Miigis: Underwater Panther,” Feb. 9

Red Sky Performance prides itself as a movement representing contemporary Indigenous performance in Canada and throughout the world.

Niyaz, featuring Azam Ali, introduces the heady music of contemporary, Middle Eastern trance, at one with folk, wrenching, tantric vocal poetry, acoustic, and modern electronic instrumentation. Award-winning, Iran-born/India-raised/L.A.-based vocalist Ali cuts through the noise in textured, interwoven moody frequencies that seem to bubble up from beneath the surface. The Iranian duo appears at ECA Feb. 11.

Legendary Na Hoku-nominated Kenny Endo (Island Breeze) expands on the traditional ideals of Japanese taiko drumming, filling up the spare, rustic spaces with heart-pounding, dynamic intensity, a modern-present-day melting pot of jazz, funk, Hawaiian, and Afro-Cuban influences. He and his vast repertoire light up ECA April 20.

Mexico City-born, New York City-based songstress Magos Herrera and the Brooklyn Rider string quartet escort you through the amorphous Latin jazz/classical landscape of Dreamers May 4. With the voice of an angel, ballet and grit in her shape-shifting inflection, soaring over scatting, offset octave grooves of strung-up romanticism, Herrera could literally sing the “Alphabet” and leave the hardest of hearts weak at the knees. 

Hers is a most righteous mission: to call attention to the forgotten with gorgeous, compassionate detail. Released in 2018 and still going strong, Dreamers puts a musical soul to the suffering masses and the 20th-century, war-torn histories of their embattled homelands in poetically enhanced, Latin American classics. 

“What we are doing is remembering and giving echo and light to these incredible luminaries, like Rubén Darío, [Federico García] Lorca, Octavio Paz [EPK Dreamers].”

D’DAT is something else entirely, entirely new and now: horns signifying the next step up, after “Taps” and “Reveille,” drums skipping in on itself, just outside bars and written chords, and soul/rap/hip hop from leftover prophets on every street corner in every bare-bones, one-horse town. 

The four-piece big band (Colville Confederated Tribe lyricist/producer James “Just Jamez” Pakootas, award-winning trumpeter Delbert Anderson, bassist Michael McCluhan, drummer Nicholas Lucero) drives funk from all the deep places, jam-packed in brutal truth, rolling to a strangely toothsome beat. The southwest band NPR named as a top 10 U.S. favorite performs live May 19.

WE SPEAK. BODYTRAFFIC. Darlingside. Robert Cray Band. Booker T. Jones. Dumpstaphunk with Jon Cleary. The Small Glories...

Ancient stories. American folk. Legends. Free spirits. Innovators.

They’re all here at ECA, with much more to come…waiting for your discovery and delight.

Feature image courtesy ECA.

Additional images by Matt Hulbert: James & Jamesy’s “O Christmas Tea,” ukulele phenomenon Jake Shimabukuro by Matt Hulbert.