Arts Listings

Berkeley’s World Music Festival Begins Saturday

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Thursday June 04, 2009 - 07:02:00 AM

The Free Sixth Annual Berkeley World Music Festival, with performance venues stretching along and just off Telegraph Ave., in People’s Park and in cafes and shops from Bancroft Way, almost to Parker, will celebrate music, song and dance of a wealth of cultures, from noon to 9 p.m. this Saturday. 

The Berkeley Poetry Festival at Telegraph and Haste will be held 1-4 p.m., and a Craft Bazaar in People’s Park, including ethnic musical instruments for sale, from noon to 5:30 p.m. Music performances in the park are scheduled from 1-5:30 p.m. All performances are free. 

A pre-party at Blake’s on Telegraph, with Two Too Desmond [“Scubacat”] and the Graham Pantzer Band, will begin at 9 p.m. Friday, $10. The afterparty, at Ashkenaz, 1317 San Pablo at Gilman Street, features Hawaiian reggae, with Marty Dread and Reggae Angels, 9:30 p.m. Saturday, $18.) 

Headlining the festival—the only band from outside the Bay Area, and a world-renowned one—will be Zimbabwe’s Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited, playing Chimurenga and Afro-Pop for listening and dancing, on the People’s Park Stage, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Past Festival favorite Julia Chigamba and the Chinyakare Ensemble, also of Zimbabwe, will perform their traditional music and dance on the People’s Park Stage,  

1-1:45 p.m. 

“I’ve tried for awhile to get Thomas Mapfumo for the festival, but he was in Zimbabwe,” said Gianna Ranuzzi, Festival director. “Now he’s back living in Oregon. We’re a community event; I ask audiences, as well as musicians and people in the music business, who would you like to hear, who should we have headline—and they all repeatedly said ‘Thomas Mapfumo.’ He took Zimbabwe’s traditional Shona music and gave it electric instrumentation. His lyrics were social, political commentary [chimurenga means struggle]. It was crossover music that caught on like wildfire in Zimbabwe. In it, you get to see both the roots and the evolution of the music.” 

Of Julia Chigamba, Ranuzzi said, “She comes from the same village as Thomas Mapfumo; her family has always played music. She’ll host dance lessons; she teaches dance to youth. Last year, she demonstrated the water tradition, with the bowl on her head. It gives a spiritual aspect, how it’s connected to the people. It’s quite joyful. She’s sharing her traditions with the world.” 

Also at People’s Park, where popular didjeridu player Stephen Kent will m.c., will be Freddy Clarke’s Wobbly World, 2-3 p.m., whose world fusion sound includes “Grammy-winner Mads Tolling [Turtle Island and Stanley Clarke Bands] on violin; congas and goatskin bagpipes, oud, and singing in Arabic and French,” according to Ranuzzi. Markus James and the Wassonrai play 3:15-4:15 p.m., which Ranuzzi describes as “Mali meets the Delta blues.” 

Last year’s headliner, Sukhawat Ali Khan (“Classical Indian music and Qawwali Sufi singing you can dance to”) will be in “a more intimate setting” at Cafe Milano, 2522 Bancroft, just east of Telegraph.  

At Mario’s La Fiesta (at Mario’s new location, the former banquet hall at 2506 Haste, behind Amoeba Records), Dr. Loco will be playing Tex-Mex music, 2-3:30 p.m. Amoeba on Telegraph will host a celebration of Amazigh Berber musician and bandleader Mo Alileche’s new CD, “In Memory of a Hero.” 

The Berkeley Poetry Festival will give Joyce Jenkins of Poetry Flash a lifetime achievement award, and feature readers like Julia Vinograd, Jack and Adele Foley, and Richard Silberg, as well as an open mic, from 1-4 p.m. in front of the former Cody’s Books, at Telegraph and Haste. 

In other locations on the Ave.: 

• Trio Amore will play and sing operatic arias and Italian love songs (“They have a lot of fun—a Ukrainian soprano, British tenor, San Francisco Italian accordionist—and and it’s fine music”) at Caffe Med, noon-2 p.m.;  

• Tom Chandler Trio, playing Bossa Nova innovations (“He calls it revisionism!”) 4:30-6:30 at Rasputin Records;  

• Helene Attia Quartette, Mediterranean world-jazz (”Of Italian heritage from North Africa, she writes songs, and sings in French, Italian and English, as well as Spanish and Portuguese”), 6-8 p.m. at Manny’s Tap Room (formerly Raleigh’s Pub);  

• Lisa Sangita Moskow, Indian sarode and vocals, 7-8 p.m., at Moe’s Books. 

• Michael Masley, well-known street musician, will play bowhammer cymbalom all day at Telegraph and Channing. 

• and, “Our festival finale features another special group,” Ranuzzi said, “Black Olive Babes, Southern Balkan and Middle Eastern, as well as original, music, whose members include the co-director of Kitka, the director of Brass Menazeri, and their bassist, who’s played with Rickie Lee Jones, Madonna, Art Garfunkle and Linda Ronstadt,” 7-9 p.m. at The Village, 2556 Telegraph. 

“The festival celebrates our Bay Area eclectic roots,” Ranuzzi said. “It’s the grassroots Telegraph community at its finest. We’re proud of it. It’s gone on for six years; I guess it’s here to stay.” 


Festival schedules with venue map are available at the event information table at Telegraph and Haste, at indoor venues during performances and printable online at: