A different drum
Chico musical mainstays celebrate their CD releases together
A fairly substantial audience, seated inside and milling around the patio, included people of all ages—from fresh-faced, enthusiastic little kids to equally enthusiastic old-school canyon-hippie types who likely attended their first Women’s Club show back in the early-'70s.
The vibe at was down-to-earth love-and-peace as members of Chico’s community of musicians and music lovers gathered to celebrate Buddhist chant, East-West music, and belly and samba dance.
Drummer/ flutist Mike Wofchuck, a fixture in the local music scene for years (most famously as a founding member of the Mother Hips), and fellow familiar face singer/guitarist Karisha Longaker celebrated the release of their new CDs—titled Flight and Up From Within, respectively—by inviting members of their musical community to join them on stage to perform a variety of songs in a variety of styles.
Singer Christina Sarver led the quartet called Kirtan, which included Wofchuck and Longaker, through a short set of songs that were Buddhist chants put to music. “Om, shanti, shanti,” Sarver sang, seated yoga-style with the other three performers on the Women’s Club stage, which was decorated sparsely with origami birds of many colors dangling from strings overhead, and a bright backdrop painted with camellias in different shades of red.
Wofchuck alternated between hand drum and bamboo flute as Sarver led the foursome and the audience through chant after calming chant, herself accompanying the music on an accordion-like wooden box instrument supplying a sustained, reedy drone beneath each devotional song.
Next up was Iranian settar player Hooman Fashy, who was also joined by Longaker and Wofchuck. The strikingly handsome Fashy lulled the audience into exotic relaxation as he plucked the four-stringed instrument and sang, in Farsi, in his beautiful, commanding voice. As it was all night long, Wofchuck’s drumming was the perfect accompaniment to what was happening on stage.
For Fashy’s second (and last) song, Alison Cranford, from local troupe Origin Tribal Belly Dance, made a surprise appearance in a red crocheted halter top and slit black bell bottoms, her hips swathed in sparkly metallic fishnet scarves. She proceeded to command the audience’s attention as she accompanied the music with her alluring movements.
After a few more songs from Sarver that included a version of well-known spiritual “Let My People Go” (which was the only weak tune of the night as Sarver’s vocal intonation was off, leaving the audience a little confused as to how to accompany her). But the crowd was treated to a captivating stretch of music (with an intermission at one point) performed at first by the duo of Wofchuck and Longaker, and then by Longaker alone in the spotlight.
Longaker (who recently moved to the Bay Area) has established herself locally as a mesmerizing singer with a unique style, whose vocalizing ranges from quirky, scat-like syllable-singing to high-pitched ethereal wails to endearing, straight-up folk singing. Dressed all in white, with her ultra-short hair drawing attention to her strong, angelic face, Longaker proved to be the proverbial belle of the ball as she performed her original music, both a cappella and accompanied by herself on both loop box and guitar.
After Longaker’s last song (“Give your love … Don’t hide it … When you hide, you die”), the Origin troupe busted out some hip-hop belly dance, warming the crowd up to samba into the night to the sounds of Chico-turned-Oakland’s self-described “big, bad percussion troupe” Loyd Family Players, joined by the ubiquitous Wofchuck.