“World music” is perhaps the most ambiguous — and easily the most far-reaching — of the sonic genres, encompassing everything from African drum circles to traditional Celtic tunes to Middle Eastern orchestrations. “World music is usually traditional non-Western music played on instruments native to its region of origin,” explains Brian Bemel, cocreator of the Ojai World Music Festival. “However, you will find that there is much more to world music than just this.”
Starting this Friday, September 30, and stretching through Sunday, October 2, Bemel and colleague John Seretzke present the first annual Ojai World Music Festival at the newly remodeled Libbey Bowl. The three-day event, which offers concert performances, as well as workshops, educational opportunities, and kid-friendly outreach programs, is easily one of the most ambitious first-year events we’ve seen of late. Read on below for just some of the highlights. For tickets, schedules, and information, call 646-8907 or visit ojaiworldmusic.org.
1. The Artists: The weekend boasts plenty of activities, but the true highlights lie in the live music. Appearing onstage will be African vocalist and acclaimed multi-instrumentalist Samite, a Ugandan musician who employs everything from thumb piano to native flutes to percussion. Also on board is On Ensemble, an impressive troupe of taiko drummers and dancers that merges traditional styles with more contemporary sounds, and Ancient Grooves, whose use of exotic instrumentation will surely impress even the most casual world music fan.
2. The History: One of Bemel and Seretzke’s primary goals in starting the Ojai World Music Fest was to preserve and carry on some of history’s most ancient musical traditions. As such, a number of the weekend’s live acts will be playing exotic instruments, many of which are rarely played onstage (and are most often spotted in museum displays). The weekend’s performances will also help connect the dots for many contemporary music fans, uniting modern worldly sounds from artists like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon, Frank Zappa, and tUnE-YarDs to their traditional, global roots.
3. The Location: This weekend’s festivities also mark another great, culturally enriching use for Ojai Valley’s new Libbey Bowl. Since reopening in June, the beloved outdoor theater has gone from a quaint and picturesque venue to a state-of-the-art performance space. Add to that its prime location and stunning natural surroundings, and you’ve got the makings for a glorious weekend of music.