BERKELEY CITY COLLEGE 40TH ANNIVERSARY Berkeley may be best known for one of its higher-ed institutions, but this week a much-deserved spotlight will be trained on the other. Although it has gone by many different names over the years, Berkeley City College has been producing scholars for four decades. BCC’s 40th anniversary celebration will kick off Friday, Oct. 17, and will continue with various events and activities throughout the coming year. Starting at noon, the day will be packed with discussion panels, live music, campus tours, and presentations by a host of officials including Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. At 5:15 p.m. there will be a dedication of “From the Ground Up/Desde las raices,” a brand new mural created by local artists including BCC students. The college is located at 2050 Center St. RSVPs are encouraged. (more…)
As a griot, Mali’s Bassekou Kouyaté traces his musical lineage back to Sundiata Keita’s expansive 13th century empire, a wealthy polity that encompassed a huge swath of West Africa. His ancestors entertained the royal court and every note he plays on the ngoni, a plucked string ancestor of the banjo, embodies a tradition handed down for generations by word of mouth. But Kouyaté is not beholden to the past. Ngoni Ba, the band he brings to Zellerbach Hall on Saturday for a Cal Performances double bill with Ethiopia’s Krar Collective, represents a radical evolution.
As a brief catalytic blast of energy, the Free Speech Movement achieved its primary goals so quickly that it didn’t have much time to inspire enduring songs and anthems. But music played an important role in those heady fall months of 1964, when students forced UC Berkeley’s administration to drop campus restrictions on political speech. Saturday’s concert at Ashkenaz celebrates the 50th anniversary of the FSM, while connecting the musical threads between the FSM and earlier progressive struggles.
THREESOME: ARTISTS FOR SOCIAL CHANGE The eye-catching title refers to an artistic trifecta — performance, visual, and literary. All three modes of expression will be squeezed onto one bill at the Subterranean Arthouse on Saturday, August 30. Berkeley based singer/songwriter Austin Willacy will perform, as will performance poet Graham Hackett, who goes by LoosiD. East Bay artist Laura VanDuren’s sculptures will be on view. The show begins at 8 p.m. at 2179 Bancroft Ave. Tickets are $15-20. (more…)
RESOURCES ROUNDTABLE California has been quite dry this year — but Friday’s roundtable on the drought will be anything but. The Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative is hosting its annual day of panel discussions and lectures on April 18. This year’s Resources Roundtable is titled “California’s Drought: Challenges and Opportunities.” Speakers — including several UC Berkeley professors — will trace the deep history of dryness in the state, and consider the current obstacles to, and potential for, addressing drought. The $10 tickets provide access to all events from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the David Brower Center at 2150 Allston Way. (more…)
About six years ago, anguished by America’s ongoing foreign wars, Sarah Cahill decided to take matters into her own hands. Ever since John Adams wrote his early breakthrough piece “China Gates” for her in 1977 the Berkeley pianist has specialized in presenting new music by living composers, and she launched her own anti-war campaign by commissioning a series of new works.
Some three decades ago Steven Emerson got a taste of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle when he joined True West, a San Francisco band at the heart of the West Coast’s then-thriving Paisley Underground scene. On a circuitous creative path ever since, he’s honed his skills as a singer/songwriter in New York City, worked as a filmmaker, published as a poet, and, for much of the past decade, toiled as a composer in his North Berkeley home studio, writing music for commercials, films, television shows and video games.
Despite releasing three acclaimed CDs over the past decade featuring some of jazz’s most accomplished improvisers, John Ettinger is one of the East Bay’s best kept musical secrets. The El Cerrito violinist gained a good deal of attention in 2006 with “Kissinger In Space,” an album as strange, wondrous and amusing as its title. He’s mostly been out of sight since the release of his last CD, 2008’s beauteous “Inquatica” with Pete Forbes on drums, piano, and banjo, a multi-tracked improvisational duo session marked by his judicious use of space and a haunting version of Hoagy Carmichael’s “Stardust.”
You can tell a lot about a musical scene by looking at the settings in which it thrives. Two very different events in the coming days embody the way that the demands and practices of a particular tradition can shape its presentation.
In Agnès Varda’s quietly enthralling documentary The Gleaners and I the groundbreaking French filmmaker investigates various ways in which people sift through and appropriate society’s leftovers. Berkeley cultural activist Bonnie Hughes would have made a fine Varda subject, as she’s spent the past two decades gleaning shuttered and neglected downtown storefronts and transforming them into vibrant and invaluable venues for musical expression.
In these belt-tightening times, it’s edifying to recall just how little gold it takes to create a golden age. On Friday and Saturday the Old Friends Festival brings together more than two-dozen musicians active on the Bay Area creative music scene in the 1990s. While high tech was booming, the scene thrived on a shoestring, with a handful of venues serving as sonic petrie dishes for some truly inspired musical experiments.
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