Esalen International Arts Festival does a global-style of Fourth of July celebration.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Meklit Hadero has a way with words, whether in English or Amharic, the national language of Ethiopia. Her lyrics are meaningful – “I like simple things, but life ain’t so simple,” she sings, “no one’s coming to save me.” And her voice is something to soak up on its own as it flutters softly through the highest notes while still remaining soulfully grounded, whether she’s alone and acoustic plucking her guitar or backed by pulsing percussion.
Hadero was born in Ethiopia and raised in New York, but she’ll be all Big Sur’s at the Esalen International Arts Festival, which was built to bring precisely her kind of multicultural music to the Central Coast.
Also performing at the Saturday, July 2, open-to-the-public festival will be the Ashé Ensemble – a Cuban, Brazilian, African, and Afro-Cuban group comprised of some former members of the Grammy award-winning Babatunde Olatunji – and Isupo Irawo, an Afro-Cuban music and dance group with a vibrant rumba style.
Adding to the multiculturalism will be Oscar winner Yuval Ron’s ensemble and its Jewish, Arabic and Christian elements, which aims to produce music, poetry and dance that bridge cultural gaps. Brooklyn-raised Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman combine to form Climbing Poetree, and will perform poetry and multimedia theater (animation, shadow puppets, video projections) to celebrate their Colombian-Haitian background with storytelling skill that earned them a slot on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. Three of the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers will lead the opening ceremony with a Native American prayer for the earth and stories, songs, dances and teachings borrowed from tribal traditions.
It all represents the most robust lineup since the festival started in 2003, demonstrating how its staying power allows founder Jayson Fann to create more connections with each passing year. It also means the diverse artistic opportunities now spill well beyond the featured public-access day to workshops and a week of new follow-up celebrations at Fann’s Big Sur Spirit Garden next to Big Sur Bakery.
Workshops cover music, dance and even cooking with folks like Climbing Poetree, Lazaro “El Maestro” Galarraga and Dominican-bred Chef Dulce Maria Perez leading the way. At the BSSG, the performances continue every night from July 4 (San Francisco artist Lila Maes de Anda and members of the Indigenous Grandmothers) to July 10 (a Samba workshop with Gisella Ferreira).
“The opportunity to be on the ocean with food, hot springs, world class music,” Fann says, “[it] doesn’t get any better than that.”
THE ESALEN INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL is July 1-3, with performances 2-7:30pm July 2 at Esalen Institute, 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur. $65/adult, $40/child 6-13, free/children under 6. 888-837-2536. firstname.lastname@example.org, www.esalen.org/events/artsfestival2011. The After Party is July 4-10 ($20-$125/show) at Big Sur Spirit Garden, 26 miles south of Carmel at Loma Vista on Highway 1, Big Sur. 283-1056, www.bigsurspiritgarden.com.