I attended last Saturday, September 17, at UCLA the opening concert for the World Festival of Sacred Music. This festival has 43 events performed by 1000 dancers, singers, and musicans held at spaces secular and sacred all over Southern California from September 17 through October 2.
The opening event was held in an amphlitheater at UCLA under a harvest full moon where we hear 5 music groups from around the world. First, there was the opening blessing by Cindi Moar Alvitre and the Tia'at Society, members of the Tonga people, the Native Americans of Los Angeles area. What I found fascinating was the Ti'at Society was reviving the "ancient Southern California Indian tradition, the Moomat Ahiko, a sacred canoe, whose name translates to "Breath of the Ocean."
The first musical group was Gonja Dreams, led by Iddi Sakka, which had musicians and danacers from Ghana, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Brazil, Israel and the U.S. performing music of the Gonga people of Northern Ghana but combining African and Western rhythms and instruments.
Next was Los Folkloristas, a group that plays traditional music and Mexico and Latin America as well as Danza Floricanto/USA, the oldest professional Mexican folk dance troup in Los Angeles. Los Floristas' songs ranged from the Mexican song "Raiz Viga" (Living Roots) to an Bolivian Indians' lament, to "Tierra Mestiza" about Chicano immigrants in the U.S. to "LA Paloma" (the dove" from Chile.
Next they had two groups performing at the same time. On the main stage the KNUA Korean Traditional Performing Arts Troupe, just having flown in from Korean, played haunting melodies on traditional instruments of flute, gong, and a stringed violin-like instrument. Some of the songs and dances were in honor of Buddhism while the last was of shamanistic origin whose purpose was "to wash away evil spirits or misfortune." At the same time The Hung Lakorn Lek Puppet Theater Troup from Thailand was performing scenes from the great Hindi epic the Ramayana. George Abe next performed on the Japanese flute in praise of the moon which loomed full, ripe and rich overhead.
The next group was Chirgilchin which is translated as "miracle" from the Tuvan language of Siberia. Chirgilchin are three young Tuvan throat-singers. The movie "Ghengis Blues" was
a international hit about the Tuvan throat singers who are quite amazing. The three played unusual Tuvan instruments of a lute, two-stringed violin, and rattle used by Tuvan shamans. I thought the music sounded like Siberian cowboy music with a beat and based on a scale like American blues. Indeed, Tuvans were a nomadic horse culture, so many of the songs are about, of course, horses, nomadic way of life, and nature. They were awfully wonderful.
Lastly was Jri Pavlica & Hradistan Dulcimer Band from Czech Republic who preserve the folk music of Southern Moravia who were also terrific. The opened with traditional Moravian and Bohemian folk songs; then they had a song cycle covering pagan singing from before 1000 a.d., early Christain choral music, medieval drinking songs, Baroque dance songs, and village songs. They closed with Jiri Pavlica's wonderful, contemporary songs. These like the Tuvan throat singers were virtuoso musicians.
At the end all the musicians and dancers came on stage--from Native America, Africa, Latin America, Korean, Siberia, and the U.S.--while Brenda Jackson, an African-American opera singer sang "Amazing Grace" acompanied by everybody. Quite a sight. The World Festival of Sacred Music shows Los Angeles at its dazzling best.
To find out more, check out the festival's website www/festivalofscaredmusic.org