By KEN BULLOCK
Special to the Planet
Late spring, and time for the diverse sounds of the Berkeley World Music Festival, which transforms Telegraph Ave. and its environs between Bancroft and The Village all weekend into a global celebration of an international spirit, expressed through the strains of each specific musical tradition represented.
“I’m always amazed at the wide variety of talent in the Bay Area,” said Gianna Ranuzzi, the four year-old festival’s founder and director, adding that each year the line-up of musicians and groups changes—and that the broad spectrum of sounds don’t only represent the cultures of the world, but the diversity of this region: “They all live here!”
And the festival is especially set up for the complement to music—dancing—with stages along the street and a Saturday afternoon extravaganza in People’s Park, sponsored by Amoeba Music and mc’d by digeridu maestro and KPFA radio personality Stephen Kent, featuring the likes of Balkan Gypsy-style Brass Menazeri, Yassir Chadly and Bouchaib Abdelhabi’s traditional Moroccan with the addition of Kent’s digeridu, and the great Samba Ngo, Congolese dance music master, with his very personalized Pan-African beat and vocals. “We’re lucky to have him!” Ranuzzi commented.
One of the street stages—call it ‘Cody’s Corner,” said Ranuzzi—will be at Haste and Telegraph, in front of the former location of Cody’s Books, featuring Chilean singer Rafael Mariquez; the Oakland Public Conservatory of Music’s Youth Marimba Band, with a dozen young people playing diasporic music on seven marimbas and on goards; and the Belly Dance Bazaar on Saturday and Sunday will see on that stage Julia Tsitsi Chigamba and her Zimbabwe music and dancers; Ya-Elah, world spiritual choir and the Druid Sisters Tea Party, “Celtic Gypsy Tribal Grooves.”
Also on Saturday, Mario’s La Fiesta restaurant will open its banquet room on Haste for Sara and Swingtime, Hollywood Latin dance. Portuguese Fado, the poetic ballads of saudade, will be sung by Ramana Vierra at Raleigh’s Pub, appropriately in the early evening, and Moh alileche will play the Parisian diasporic cafe form of his Amazigh Berber music to finish off the day’s festivities at The Village.
Elsewhere, up and down the Avenue on Saturday, the Caffe Mediterraneum presents the Parisian cafe sounds of the Baguette Quartette; Rasputin Music features The Palm Wine boys’ acoustic world folk, while Magic Carpet combines Indian sarode with Latin rhythms at Naan ‘n Curry—and Tara Linda y Sombra de la Luna plays 1930s Tex-Mex dance music and songs at the corner of Channing Way.
Sunday kicks off with Mamidou and vanessa with their seminal Mali Blues at Caffe Med, and Trillium World Harp Trio at the Musical Offering on Bancroft, followed by Gary Wade’s unplugged R & B at Moe’s Books, the Cajun All-Stars’ Zydeco at the Durant Food Court, the great Tito y Su Son de Cuba at Durant’s Beau Sky Hotel, Pusaka Sunda’s Javanese Gamelan Dejung at Julie’s Healthy Cafe on Bancroft, Evelie S. Posch and Mahal with Filipino Fusion at Caffe Milano (also on Bancroft), Grupo Falso with Brazilian Choro and Samba at Raleigh’s—and the festival closer, Freddy Clarke’s Wobbly World, world fusion at The Village, a fit finale for such a display of worldwide musical color.
“This year’s line-up’s proven so stellar, the morning openers could all just as well be evening headliners,” said Ranuzzi. “These artists are the ones preserving and teaching their cultures. It’s a chance to hear in intimate places, to talk with or dance outside to performers who usually appear in expensive venues—and all for free, on Telegraph Avenue.”
For details see www.worldmusicberkeley.org.