WE, AND THEY, ARE THE WORLD: Is there something about the fragile state of the world which enhances our appreciation of culture far from these shores, far from the stomping grounds of what-me-worry corporate America, idiocy-baiting mass media and “ American Idolatry?” Maybe it’s the justifiable skepticism over American arrogance in many parts of the world, or the frustration of those of us Statesiders who still believe in the beauty of peacefully coexistent but disparate viewpoints. Whatever the case, the “outside” world’s culture beckons, beacon-like. We’ve noticed, for instance, that the international component of the Santa Barbara International Film Festival has been particularly compelling in recent years:hmm, a phenom which seems to have coincided with the Bush years, come to think of it.
And on the too-rare occasions when so-called “world music” comes to Santa Barbara, our ears and souls perk up. This weekend is one of those double-header specials, with two recommended ventures away from the shallow depths of the popular American musical two-step. Not surprisingly, both concerts land at UCSB. Friday night brings a notable local debut by the revered South Indian violin duo Ganesh and Kumaresh, brotherly masters of the Carnatic style violin playing, who will be joined by two percussionists, at Lotte Lehmann Concert Hall. The concert is sponsored by the estimable Raagmala organization, which has hosted many a celebrated visiting Indian musician.
On Saturday, the MultiCultural Center’s concert season-a great one, indeed—closes to the loamy tune of the Chookasian Armenian Concert Ensemble, led by clarinetist John Chookasian, a New York-born, first generation Armenian-American who has for many years made it his mission and passion to “preserve and present” traditional Armenian music. The ensemble is replete with such indigenous Middle Eastern and/or Armenian instruments as the ancient and proudly Armenian duduk (as heard via the sweetly wistful virtuoso Djavan Gasparyan), the kanoon (ancestor of the piano), the lute-like tarr, and that most ancient instrument, the human voice-belonging to John’s wife, Barbara.