It’s a Berkeley world after all as music hits streets, park

The "ferociously grooving" Cuban dance music of Fito Reynoso y su Ritmo y Armonia will be part of the 9th Annual World Music Festival in Berkeley's Telegraph Avenue neighborhood on Saturday June 2

Just as Berkeley starts settling into its pleasingly sleepy summer rhythm, the 9th Annual World Music Festival takes over Telegraph on Saturday, infusing the avenue with a jolt of energy. Running from noon to 9 pm, the free musical fest brings an international array of music to cafés and shops south of campus, with the action centering on the Amoeba-sponsored People’s Park stage from 1-6 pm.

While the music is global in scope, the artists are local, highlighting the wealth of talent, homegrown and adopted, that abides among us. Maria Muldaur headlines at People’s Park, kicking off the last set at 4:30 pm. While still best known for her 1974 pop hit “Midnight At the Oasis,” she’s an authoritative blues singer with a good feel for jazz who has honed a rootsy Gulf Coast sound with her Red Hot Bluesiana Band.

Other featured acts include the ferociously grooving Cuban dance music of Fito Reynoso y su Ritmo y Armonia (People’s Park 2:45 pm); the sensuous tangos of Trio Garufa (The Village 7 pm); the joyous Manouche swing of Duo Gadjo (Caffé Mediterraneum noon); the incantatory Shona percussion and thumb piano of Sadza Marimba & Mbira (Haste and Telegraph 1 pm); and the Moroccan trance rhythms of percussionist Bouchaib Abdelhadi with oud master Yassir Chadly (Rasputin Music 4 pm).

True Life trio Briget Boyle, Juliana Graffagna and Leslie Bonnett

While some bands concentrate on a particular tradition, others explore the creative possibilities of cross-fertilization, like the recently formed True Life Trio (Musical Offering 1:30 pm). Featuring Leslie Bonnett, Briget Boyle and Juliana Graffagna, who are all former members of the great all-woman vocal ensemble Kitka, True Life finds unlikely timbres connecting Bulgaria to the Bayou with an improvisation-laced repertoire that includes original songs and folk tunes.

“We were interested in exploring the vast array of traditional music that lends itself to three-part harmonies and the sounds we three singers could make together, knowing our voices to be very different from each other, but very powerful with a great blend,” Graffagna says. “We often start our shows with a cappella Balkan songs and gradually build, adding percussion, then fiddle, and then bust out into Cajun dance tunes with three-part harmonies, fiddle, guitar and electric bass.”

The festival continues at Ashkenaz with an after-party featuring Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Joni Haastrup & MonoMono. Haastrup, a vocalist and multi-instrumentalist, has lived in Oakland for decades, largely unrecognized as the man crowned Soul Brother Number One for his work on the seminal 1966 album “Orlando Julius Ekemode and his Modern Aces’ Super Afro Soul.” Drummer Ginger Baker, late of Cream, brought him to London in 1971, which positioned Haastrup to release a series of influential albums with his band Monomomo, most importantly 1972’s “Give the Beggar a Chance” and 1974’s “The Dawn of Awareness.” Since Soundway Records reissued those albums last year, Haastrup is finally starting to get his due.

And, while the concert isn’t connected to the World Music Festival, let’s note that Casa de Cultura on San Pablo Avenue presents Jazz Brazil playing an evening of sophisticated Brazilian popular music featuring vocalist Ligia Waib, the brilliant keyboardist Marcos Silva, expert guitarist Ricardo Peixoto, bassist Doug Lee and veteran drummer Phil Thompson, who has worked extensively with Brazilian masters like Jovino Santos Neto and Airto and Flora Purim.

For more information, visit the World Music Festival website.

Andrew Gilbert, whose Berkeleyside music column appears every Thursday, also covers music and dance for the San Jose Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe and KQED’s California Report. He lives in west Berkeley. 

To find out about more events in Berkeley and nearby, visit Berkeleyside’s Events Calendar. We also encourage you to submit your own events.

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