‘Country music’

WorldFest’s global village shares music from many countries

Cape Verde Afro-pop vocalist Lura

Cape Verde Afro-pop vocalist Lura

Photo By Alan Sheckter

Cal WorldFest
Grass Valley Fairgrounds July 16-19

California WorldFest co-director Dan DeWayne talked about it during his pre-fest pep talk to staff and volunteers, and musician Morley waxed poetic about it, saying, “Sharing is what it’s all about. Between all of us, we get to do this thing at this magical location.”

One of those distinctive and unscripted sharing moments materialized out of thin air on Sunday night. While many smiling, sun-kissed faces shuffled out of the fairgrounds, satisfied with Australian guitar wiz Tommy Emmanuel’s final instrumental of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Waltzing Matilda,” one more collaboration remained. As Emmanuel cordially glad-handed and posed for pictures with fans, three folks, a woman with an accordion, a man with a drum and a boy with a guitar, began to garner attention by entertaining those in line. Soon, about 100 people took part in, or looked on as, an impromptu version of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds (Every Little Thing Gonna Be All Right)” broke out, featuring the stand-up bass player from the Fishtank Ensemble, who burst into the meet-and-greet area from backstage, a dancer who just happened to have her tap shoes on at 11 p.m., and sing-along vocals from the duo Bluehouse, several staff and volunteers, and even Emmanuel, who sang along as he kept his line of fans moving.

It was both a bizarre yet fitting collaborative ending for the 13th WorldFest. As multi-instrumentalist Joe Craven said at his first performance of the weekend, “Welcome to WorldFest, which features four days of country music—and we don’t care which country it’s from.”

And for four days, WorldFest was, in essence, a living, breathing village, turning the ag-based shell of the fairgrounds acreage into a colorful and celebratory synthesis of world cultures.

While WorldFest always features a few household-name headliners—this year’s model included Los Lobos on Saturday and the Indigo Girls on Friday—thousands made the trip to enjoy the fest’s idyllic setting and hear sounds from Sweden, Senegal, Jamaica and Scotland.

David Blonski’s didgeridoo workshop

Photo By Alan Sheckter

In addition to the eight stages that offered 13 hours of music per day, plus special late-night drumming/percussion assemblies, WorldFest, for the second time, featured a mini Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival as well as Native People’s Village, hosted by the Tsi-Akim Maidu tribe.

This year’s fest offered little relief from the valley heat, with temperatures in the shade reaching the mid-90s. WorldFest did have several misters running, and there were a few indoor, air-conditioned stages offering refuge as well as music.

Out in the fairgrounds’ vast, tree-canopied camping area, weekend homesteaders ranged from organic purists to those who preferred cans of Bud Light with their morning meal.

WorldFest 2009 also featured plenty of Chico-area talent. In addition to local bluegrass man Sid Lewis, who ran Jammin’ 101 workshops, and Chico-area yoga and tai chi instructors, Chico acoustic duo MaMuse drew hundreds to their two small-stage performances and banjo historian and humorist Gordy Ohliger masterfully performed with crowd-pleasing success. The Pub Scouts and the Troika Folk Dance Band also led dance workshops.

Sweden’s Abalone Dots

Photo By Alan Sheckter

Although DeWayne didn’t want to give exact attendance numbers, he did allow that turnout was among the best they’ve had. This was quite evident when the festival peaked on Saturday night, with Los Lobos drawing several thousand to the Meadow Stage lawn and a declaration that the camping area was sold out.

While hundreds of staff and volunteers, from stage technicians to those who picked up trash, carried out much of the duties, it continued to be DeWayne and his wife and co-director, Christine Myers, who supplied the overarching main ingredient: fine, off-the-mainstream-radar musical talent from all over the world.

A Peace Corps volunteer in Mali in the ’70s, DeWayne’s résumé includes co-founding the Strawberry Music Festival, managing Chico’s Shakespeare in the Park, and creating the Chico World Music Festival before becoming director at Chico State’s University Public Events. He is a recognized purveyor of world music, bringing deserved notoriety to many for the first time, like WorldFest performers Done Gone String Band, whom he met at a musical showcase in January, in Whitehorse, Yukon, of all places.

He called WorldFest a “year-round endeavor, a year-round love affair,” though when all of the work is done, he said with a smile, “yes, we question our sanity every year.”