California WorldFest


The California WorldFest is a 3-day outdoor musical festival held on the Nevada County Fairgrounds nestled amongst the tall pine trees in the Sierra Foothills, specifically Grass Valley, CA. Festival goers have the option of setting up camp on the adjacent campgrounds, lodging at nearby motels, or doing as I did, purchase a day pass and making it a day trip from the Bay Area. I was able to pick up the live radio broadcast as far away as East Sacramento (approximately 60 miles from Grass Valley). So coming and going the broadcast made for a nice drive.

I arrived at the festival just in time to rest for a half hour or so before participating in the African drum workshop led by Baba Ken Okulolo. His introductory remarks to the predominately white workshop participants were gracious but very direct. He let everyone know the workshop was not going to be some type of neo-hippy hoedown, free-for-all. I was so RELIEVED when he said something to the affect of, “We Africans stay rooted in the polyrhythm, we do not ‘float’ around in the air when we play. You will be expected to stay grounded in the rhythm, do not look for a typical downbeat, because you will not find it. You are expected to hold down your part no matter what.”

fest_16.JPGHis remarks not only helped to ground me in the drumming but also served as a reminder to stay grounded in myself as I walk in the world. Grounding, centering and surrendering were my motivations for trekking up to Worldfest in the first place.

If you’ve gone to live African music performances in the Bay Area most likely you have experienced Baba Ken in one of his bands: The Nigerian Brothers, West African Highlife Band, or Kotoja. Bay Area residents and visitors alike who love Western African music would do well to stay informed on the many performances and workshops he organizes.

In addition to the workshops, artisan and food vendor booths, children’s parade and overall positive vibration, the event offered 8-stages of music ranging from folk, afro-pop, blues, Latin, Americana. It also featured all manner of hybrid music including Punjabi, devotional music with an Australian twist and Russian folk ‘n roll with a surprisingly funky horn section. The Russian group Limpopo’s horn player had a custom trombone outfitted with trumpet style valves! The vocal styling of Los Angeles native Perla Batalla made me nostalgic for 1970’s L.A. and the vibrant music scene of my youth when bands like Kitaro, War, Tower of Power, and Santana played music that defied categorizing.

Listed on the next page are links and brief descriptions of festival performers that left an impression on me. If you want to venture out and explore music outside your comfort zone perhaps you will find something here to perk up your ears.


Links | Photo Album

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