A one-of-a-kind annual festival featuring expressive music and dance from across the globe has drawn crowds to Santa Clarita since the 1970s. This year’s California Institute of the Arts World Music and Dance Festival is bringing nine free outdoor concerts to the stage. Presented by the CalArts Pioneering World Music Program on Friday, April 28 through Sunday, April 30, the Festival features Indonesian, Persian, Indian and African music, dance, and more. This year, top performers include a duet between Indonesia’s most renowned cross-gender dancer, Didik Nini Thowok, and acclaimed classical Javanese dancer, Maria Darmaningsih. Other world music legends to appear at CalArts’ Wild Beast music pavilion will include India’s Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri and Aashish Khan, and Persian masters Houman Pourmehdi and Pirayeh Pourafar.
Presented by The Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts, the World Music and Dance Festival is part of the school’s Wild Beast Concert Series. One of the first schools in the United States to offer degree programs in World Music performance, CalArts has a long history of nurturing traditional and new forms of music from a variety of cultures.
“In our global age, world music is essential to all music,” said David Rosenboom, dean of The Herb Alpert School of Music. “For many years, the CalArts World Music and Dance Festival has been a treasured cultural jewel, lighting our way forward towards a borderless culture. It is our honor to continue offering this all-important perspective on the shared traditions we respect, and from which we draw inspiration to fuel the life of music to come.”
Kicking off the festival on Friday will be Didik Nini Thowok and Maria Darmaningsih. A master of Indonesian mask and cross gender dance with more than 40 years of experience in pop, traditional, and contemporary music, Thowok’s performance will launch his two-week residency at the Institute. He will lead an exploratory lab workshop with CalArts artists, host a discussion with CalArts’ Queer Artists Community, conduct class visits, and present his work at venues throughout Los Angeles over the two weeks.
Later on Friday night, Los Angeles-based troupe Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih, translated “Honorable Dream Come True,” will present two Javanese classical court dances and wayang kulit purwa — an ancient form of shadow puppet play. And on Saturday afternoon, guests will enjoy the World Music Student Showcase Concert before a performance by the CalArts Balinese Gamelan Gong Kebyar Burat Wangi, translated “Fragrant Offering,” directed by faculty members Nyoman Wenten and Nanik Wenten. This art form fuses ancient traditions with contemporary music and dance.
The CalArts Tabla Ensemble will take center stage Saturday night with a performance of both traditional and contemporary North India tabla music. Afterwards, Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri and Ustad Aashish Khan – two legendary international artists and CalArts faculty members – perform a set of Hindustani classical music duos, during which they will announce the raag and taal — the melodic modes and rhythmic cycles — of the music from the stage.
On Sunday afternoon, the Student Indian Ensemble reaches back to the 16th century for compositions of vocal and instrumental music. Then, the Student Persian Ensemble presents a mystical performance setting the powerful verse of Rumi and Hafiz to the music of composer Khalil Alinejad and featuring special guest Pirayeh Pourafar.
On Saturday night, the CalArts World Percussion Ensemble – directed by faculty members Randy Gloss, Houman Pourmehdi, and Andrew Grueschow – presents its ongoing, experimental work bridging the percussion, drumming, and world music traditions explored at CalArts. Closing out the weekend on Sunday night, the Aza West African Ensemble presents instrumental music, songs and dancing from the Ewe, Ga, and Dagomba traditions of West Africa (Ghana). The performance includes CalArts faculty members Nani Agbeli and Andrew Grueschow from the African Music and Dance Program.
All CalArts World Music and Dance Festival events are free and open to the public. Reservations are recommended. Visit CalArts.edu for more information.