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Celebrating world music at family festival

Emeline Michel is a New York-based Haitian singer who’s sung her French and Creole songs across North America and western Europe.

But on Friday, Michel was in Grass Valley, singing at the 12th annual California WorldFest, which started Thursday.

Michel is one of 150 artists from across the world who are performing this year at the international music festival at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. From 9:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. today and Sunday, artists perform multiple times at eight stages around the fairgrounds. The evening shows take place exclusively on the main stage near Gate 1.



“Every continent is represented here,” said Dan DeWayne, director of the festival. “There are (artists from) dozens of countries present here, including Ivory Coast, Vietnam, Israel and various points in between.”

Despite a career of performing in big cities, Michel said she could relate to an audience in a rural setting, as she was born in the countryside.




“Every audience is different,” Michel said. “You have to listen to what they want. That’s why the best way is to communicate with them. Your songs are your stories, but you want everyone to take a piece of the story.”

Because she sings in French and Creole, she always tells her audience what her songs are about, Michel said.

“So even if they can’t follow what I’m saying, from a word or two, they can understand,” she said.

Michel planned to present eight to 10 songs in her two performances Friday, she said.

Moira Smiley, from New England, is singing with her group at 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. today at the “Welcome” stage and the “Sierra” stage. She found the audience “extraordinarily open,” she said.

“Festival audiences are eager to listen to new things and celebrate the music,” she said. “They are not critical at all.”

“The talents who we see (at the festival) are also world-class,” Smiley added.

This is the fifth time Smiley is performing at the fest, she added.

“Every year, I look forward to hearing other performers. Meeting each other is such an important reasons for artists to come to these festivals,” she said.

Smiley will present folk music from Eastern Europe and the Appalachians, she said.

Besides musicians, the festival also has drawn vendors from various countries to the fairgrounds. Booths selling jewelry, artworks, clothes and miscellaneous curiosities have mushroomed along the winding pathways. The colors of tie-dye are ubiquitous, as is the aroma of curries and kebabs from the food stalls.

Mamadou Traore, from Mali in western Africa, sells artifacts, jewelry, sea shells and aboriginal statues and masks at his booth, Malinke Imports.

“I think this is a beautiful, family festival,” Traore said as he attended customers checking out his unique merchandise. “The set-up under the pine trees is also very peaceful.”

Traore, who lives in Davis and makes his living by selling goods at various fairs, said he found “people are into the culture of what I have (to sell).”

“This is a beautiful crowd that appreciates art,” he added.

About 5,000 people are expected today at the festival, DeWayne said. Around 4,000 more are likely to come on Sunday, he added.

To contact Soumitro Sen, e-mail ssen@theunion.com or call 477-4229.


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