A first-timer tackles WorldFest | TheUnion.com

A first-timer tackles WorldFest

Charles Atthill
Special to Prospector
California band Magic Giant will kick things off for WorldFest as they headline Thursday night.
Photo by Brantley Gutierrez


WHAT: California WorldFest

WHEN: Starting at 4 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. Friday-Sunday

WHERE: Nevada County Fairgrounds, McCourtney Road, Grass Valley

TICKETS: Available at the Box Office at the Fairgrounds Gate 1 and Gate 4, and on-line at www.WorldFest.net. Adult Festival Passes $75 (Single Day) to $190 (4-Day). Youth Festival Passes Ages 13-16 $40 (Single Day), $65 (4-Day), Child ages 6-12 $30 (4-Day)

WEBPAGE: www.WorldFest.net


For the 23rd consecutive year from the festival’s debut in 1996, KVMR will be the radio broadcast voice of California WorldFest

WHAT: KVMR live broadcast of California WorldFest

WHEN: Thursday-Sunday, July 12-15

BROADCAST HOURS: 5 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Thursday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday; 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday; 10 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sunday

FREQUENCIES: 89.5 FM Nevada City, 105.1 FM Truckee, and kvmr.org streaming worldwide

How lucky we are in Nevada County. So much music. Live music, daily, of all genres, in many venues, and in our festivals.

And such festivals: Strawberry, High Sierra, Bluegrass, KVMR’s Celtic, Music in the Mountains SummerFest, and this week’s California WorldFest, presented by our own Center for the Arts. An opportunity for total immersion in the best of world music.

I must confess I have never been to WorldFest. There’s a lot to grasp.

Seven stages. 50 different performers. Music from 9 in the morning until 10:30 at night (Thursday from 4 p.m.), with “Late Nights” too. And that’s just the music.

Five thousand and more will attend daily. There are workshops for all; the program for the family and the kids; the market place with artisan vendors and food for every fancy.

There’s the Global Indigenous People’s village: what was once a blessing by the Nisenan is now an established tribute to the people on whose ancestral lands WorldFest takes place, a celebration of global culture.

In the campground, villages will pop-up as thousands gather to create, and re-create, their own traditions.

“Bring smiles and positive vibes,” says the Guidelines for Campers.

The musicians

Top class local, national and international musicians, invited to perform by The Center for the Arts, meet the standard “What works for our audience.” The line-up is impressive, geographically, culturally and musically. I count close to 20 nationalities of performers: Australia, Siberia, Mali. South Korea, Iran, Pakistan, Mexico — and Nevada City. There are musical genres I’ve never heard of.

The performers names don’t help me choose who to listen to, intriguing though they sound: Noreum Machi, Keith Secola (back again), Achilles Wheel (local band), Banana Slug (back again), Huun Huur Tu, Ranky Tanky (back again), Tesky Brothers, Jasmine Fuego (WorldFest’s MC).

My attempt to understand their musical genres is thwarted by the sheer numbers.


For many of this year’s artists WorldFest is a new experience, as it is for me. Trevor Hall, who headlines Sunday, is a first-timer.

“WorldFest has been on my radar. Friends and bands have told me it’s wonderful,” said Hall, when we spoke recently. “I’m a huge fan of any form of World Music. WorldFest is a great opportunity to hear a bunch of genres. Many festivals don’t offer that.”

His genre?

“I guess it’s acoustic roots folk, with different elements, influenced by all sorts of music,” Hall said.

Hall is closely associated with “conscious music.”

“I see music is a tool to explore our consciousness,” he said.

His lyrics are thoughtful, reflecting his spirituality.

“Sometimes I don’t know what I am talking about,” he said. “Years down the road I may get an understanding. Creation is a process of letting the energy flow through me, without my ego getting in the way.”

Can we expect songs from his new album, “The Fruitful Darkness”?

“What we play depends on the vibration of the space and the audience,” Hall said.

I am happy to promise him positive vibrations from both.

It’s first time also for Saturday’s headliner, Anoushka Shankar, acclaimed classical Indian sitar player and leading figure in progressive world music.

“I love festivals,” she said, “and I love the WorldFest line-up. Festivals have a different atmosphere. I can play the same music in a concert hall and at a festival and the feeling is different.”

Taught exclusively by her father, Ravi Shankar, she was an accomplished classical sitar player from her early teens. In her 20s she found her own voice, the sitar another expressive element as she embraced different forms of music.

She has not abandoned her classical Indian music roots and creates her music “for the right reasons,” including her concern about social, especially women’s, issues. Her most recent album, “Land of Gold,” is her response to the humanitarian trauma of displaced people fleeing conflict and poverty.

“We are still touring this music and it’s still relevant after two years,” Shankar said.

There will be a Bucket Collection to help address the refugee crisis.

Friday’s headliner is Magic Giant, back for more and full of Californian energy. Their debut album, “In the Wind,” weaves alternative, pop, and folk, with orchestral drums, banjo, trumpet, saxophone, harmonica, synthesizers, electric bass, cello, viola, violin, dobro, lap steel, mandolin and more.

“We use whatever instruments are best for the song,” said lead vocal Austin Bisnow.

“When we get together to write,” added Zang, who plays at least five instruments and is back-up vocals, “we become one unique voice we may never have found on our own.”

And on Thursday, Galactic returns with their unique and ever changing New Orleans funk sound, influenced by rock, brass bands, blues, jazz, hip hop, electronic and world music. It’s been 20 years since they began pushing the envelope of musical possibilities and they have grown over time. When it comes to trying new approaches, says saxophonist Ben Ellman, “it’s an evolution.”

Once again, local Nevada County bands are well-represented.

Randy McKean, who plays in Tumble and Chicken Bonz, both melting pots of styles, surely speaks for many local performers.

“It means a lot to have the Center for the Arts include us,” McKean said. “This is the perfect place to host this kind of event. It’s a crossroads; each of its representative bands is an example of what happens when cultures collide and converse creatively. And we also get to learn what’s new from artists from afar.”

The plan

I can’t hear them all. Old hands suggest a plan. Claim your space for the headliners. Start walking. Follow your ears.

Find an old favorite. Try something new. Absorb what you hear. If you like it, stay. If you don’t, move on.

Enjoy the experience — and your fellow listeners. Immerse yourself.

Need respite? Visit one of the buildings, with air conditioning and chairs. Find a workshop or grab a bite.

And watch out for me. I’ll be the one looking confident that he has a great plan to make the most of WorldFest.

Charles Atthill is a freelance music writer and KVMR broadcaster. He lives in Alta Sierra.

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