The World Music Festival brings a universe of influences to local stages.
Thursday, October 1, 1998
This year''s edition of the World Music Festival, like the Carmel Performing Arts Festival with which it''s attached, is a pared-down event. Last year''s fest featured nearly 80 bands or musicians with overlapping performance times on four stages at the Monterey Fairgrounds; this year''s festival features 10 distinct performance on two stages.
Also, this year''s festival has moved both geographically (from the fairgrounds to the Sunset Center for evening performances and the Outdoor Forest Theater for afternoon concerts) and in time (from June to October). And strategically, the World Music Festival has allied itself with the Carmel Performing Arts Festival in the hopes that the events might buoy attendance at both.
But these may be irrelevant details for audiences looking for a concentrated dose of music from around the world.
The Friday evening concert at the Sunset Center opens the festival with performances by the West African High Life Band and Samite of Uganda. The West African High Life Band is a well-established up-tempo, dance-oriented group that may well have audiences looking for a dance floor. Samite''s music is a blend of his native Banganda music (played on the finger piano, wooden xylophone and flute, and sung in the Luganda language) with more contemporary influences.
On Saturday afternoon (at the Outdoor Forest), Iranian-American saxophonist/composer Hafez Modirzadeh brings his Chromodal Consort to Carmel. Maybe more than any other performer or group, Modirzadeh represents the cross-cultural influences that dominate this festival. His music incorporates not only American jazz and traditional Persian music, but there are classical and Chinese influences as well. The following act, Dresden is more difficult to pinpoint. Based in Santa Cruz, the duo of vocalist Nancy LeVan and accordionist/keyboardist Jeremy Lute produces a sound that''s half New Age and half..."from an imagined place," as the festival producers describe it. Closing the afternoon outing is Fantcha, a vocalist from the Cape Verde islands off Senegal. Her music is blend of Portuguese, Brazilian and African influences, a blend that sounds comes out sounding like an exotic cabaret mix--full of a tangible soul and pain that transcends a listener''s ability to understand the lyrics. Cape Verde is an economically depressed community, and Fantcha''s lyrics often reflect a yearning for better times (at least that''s what the liner notes say).
Saturday evening''s concert (back at the Sunset Center) opens with the "Balkan/Middle Eastern/Medieval" music of Stellamara. The source for much of Stellamara''s music are Muslim calls to devotion, but it''s blended with ambient electronics, as well as traditional and contemporary Middle Eastern and European instruments. Closing the Saturday night show is Jai Uttal and The Pagan Love Orchestra, one of the better-known groups performing at the fest. Uttal and the seven-member orchestra derive their music from Hindu chants and the ecstatic songs of Bengali bards. This is another show that may produce an irresistible urge among the audience to get up and move.
Sunday''s show at the Forest Theater may be the most consciousness-altering gig of the festival. The show opens with the Latif Bolat Ensemble, which specializes in Turkish Sufi and village music. Listening to Bolat''s Infinite Beginning, it''s easy to get lost, to drift, with the music, to let it carry you from melancholy to ecstasy as the songs move seamlessly one into another. Following Bolat, Irina Mikhailova brings music from her native Kazakhstan to the stage. Kazakhstan is, itself a cultural crossroads, with Greek, Asian, Muslim and Russian influences, and Mikhailova''s music reflects that diversity. Closing the show, and the festival, is Ghazal, is comprised of a trio of musicians, each a master in his own right: Shujat Khan, vocalist/sitarist; Kayhan Kalhor, Persian spike violin and small wooden lute; and Swapan Chadhuri, tabla. Together the trio performs a blend of Persian and Indian classical musics that relies heavily on improvisation--this will truly be a concert where both musicians and audiences will be led wherever the music takes them.
As part of the festival, lectures and demonstrations are offered at 10am on Saturday and Sunday at the Scout House, San Carlos Street and 8th Avenue, Carmel.
Evening shows begin at 7:30pm on Friday and Saturday at the Sunset Center, San Carlos Street and 9th Avenue, Carmel; afternoon shows begin at noon Saturday and Sunday at the Forest Theater, Mountain View Street and Santa Rita Avenue, Carmel. Tickets: $16/show. For more info: 622-9595, or www.montereyworldmusic.org.