Notes From Around the World
Mongolian throat singers, marching bands and monks—it’s all at this year’s Madison World Music Festival.
Red Baraat Photo by Amy Touchette
Take music from anywhere around the world. Add a venue full of excited music lovers. Plug it into the formula, derived by a committee of dedicated students and adults. Multiply by the danceability constant. Put it all together and—voila!—it’s an equation for greatness in the Madison World Music Festival. The Union Theater’s sixth annual music festival, held September 16–19, promises an eclectic cultural lineup.
Esty Dinur, music committee chair of the event, says the World Music Festival commits itself to excellence, planning for the fest a year in advance. Dinur painstakingly compiles the music, using her discriminating ears to find bands that will reflect the festival’s mission. This mission, she says, is to appeal to students and make them want to dance, under the broad goal of educating the community about different cultures.
“We weigh these things when we look at possibilities,” says Dinur. “Another goal we have is promoting gender balance in what is offered to us."
Formulating A Recipe
With an artist pool as big as the world, how does the committee book acts? The Madison World Music Festival is part of a larger organization called the World Music Fests, with whom the festival coordinators share ideas. If an artist is booked with a World Music Festival in Chicago, traveling to Madison will make the trip worthwhile as the World Music Fest can’t cover the artists’ airfare. The committee also cultivates relationships with agents, and receives requests from artists who want to perform. Sometimes, they’ll just hear about an artist offhand and decide that it’s exactly what they’re looking for.
“We try not to do the same type of thing from year to year,” says Dinur. “And sometimes, we find something that’s compelling but similar, and we decide against it.”
She admits that being the chair of the artistic selection process has a world of perks: “I love my job,” she says.
First, Dinur listens to all of the music she’s given to weed out the bands that are not what the committee is looking for. She listens to CDs and watches YouTube to research the acts. Then, she makes a long list of all the bands with potential and narrows it down from there.
“We go to a meeting with all of the other World Music Festivals in January to decide on the music. We sit and listen to music all day!” says Dinur, animatedly. “And at the end of the night, we vote. And it’s so difficult to make the decision.”
The committee picks twelve to twenty artists and calls their agents. Every year, some of the acts fall through due to difficulties with obtaining funds or visas. This year for example, an Algerian artist had to back out which disrupted the gender balance at the upcoming festival.
Different entities in Madison are responsible for the success of the festival. The committee is a diverse group of campus members, the community at large as well as members affiliated with the Willy Street Fair and the radio station WORT. One day of this year’s festival (September 19) will take place at the Willy Street Fair.
Students on campus get involved with the festival by presenting a showcase of music and dance from around the world chosen by a student committee. The act is aptly named “Locally Global,” and will take place on the first day of the fair.
A World of Music
This year, the festival’s theme is marching bands, featuring three very different acts. One such band, Red Baraat, is a self-acclaimed “dhol and brass” band from India that replicates the sound of an Indian marriage procession called baraat. Baraat is characterized by a marching band and a barrel-shaped, double-sided Indian drum is used. Red Baraat will most likely march from Library Mall to the Union.
When asked about which bands not to miss, Dinur settled on four artists:
• Mucca Pazza is an exception to the cultural lineup. This Chicago-based marching band is performing two sets of music. They are known for their varied repertoire and feature a violin, mandolin, accordion, guitar and cheerleaders along with traditional brass.
• Hanggai, a group of Mongolian throat singers, promise a contemplative set, says Dinur. The band dabbles with traditional Mongolian folk music in hopes of recovering a culture that is quickly being forgotten and replaced by the influence of Sinicization, the assimilation of Chinese cultures.
• Minyeshu, an Ethiopian artist, was booked after Dinur saw her live. In addition to her vocal talents, says Dinur, she is also a very charismatic dancer.
• Cheb i Sabbah, a DJ who has “spun discs with John and Yoko” will close the festival in style with a dance party. One of the first DJs, he is experienced in Arabian, African and Asian music. The party will take place at the Memorial Union and feature belly dancers.
The Mystical Arts of Tibet
The only ticketed event at the festival is the Mystical Arts of Tibet, performed by Tibetan monks whose goal is to spread the message of world peace. Dressed in traditional attire, these monks will participate in a ceremony in which they construct and destroy a sand mandala, which represents a palace inhabited by deities. The monks will create the mandala on the first day of the festival and destroy it on the last, dispersing it in water. Endorsed by the Dalai Lama, the monks will perform their Sacred Dance for World Healing and play traditional Tibetan music.
Nothing Less Than Superb
The World Music Festival, though young, has established itself as a must-hear event for the Madison community. Each act lends something new, and the festival is sure to spread awareness and appreciation of other cultures across campus.
“Everything here is superb and excellent,” says Dinur. “We don’t do anything less than that.”
UW junior Jason Shao watched artist Chiwoniso at last year's music festival.
“Listening to the CD is nothing like going out there and dancing to the beat of the amazing Zimbabwean band backing Chiwoniso, or watching the energy build as she brought up her sisters and cousins to sing with her, or admiring the sights and sounds of the mingling mbira and guitars,” says Shao.
The World Music Festival will take place from September 16-19. For more details go to uniontheater.wisc.edu/worldmusicfest
Aarushi Agni is a freshman at UW-Madison, majoring in Biochemistry and International Studies, or something else that changes the world for the better. She was a staff writer for the Simpson Street Free Press, and filled two editor positions for school newspapers. She enjoys singing to herself while walking to class.