CalArts Presents a Weekend of World Music and Dance—and it’s FREE!

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“Ramayana: An Indian Epic” Balinese music and dance by Gamelan Burat Wangi at REDCAT directed and choreographed by I Nyoman Wenten and Nanik Wenten.

Spring has sprung, and that means that it’s time once again for the annual CalArts World Music and Dance Festival. The performance-filled weekend is set to take place Friday to Sunday, April 28 to 30, 2017.

We all know the difference between blended versions of mixed drinks versus taking our libations straight-up or “neat.” As a musical analog, this festival falls under the “neat” category. Expect to see traditional music and dance from around the world. The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) is well known for its performing arts curriculum. Its annual World Music and Dance Festival is testament to its longtime dedication and devotion to traditional music and dance.

The CalArts World Music and Dance Festival

To kick things off on Friday, April 28, Indonesia’s most famous transgender dancer, Didik Nini Thowok, will perform a duet with Javanese classical dancer, Mair Maria Darmaningsih.

I. Nyoman Wenten performing in the CalArts Percussion Ensemble at the 2011 World Music and Dance Festival. (Photo by Scott Groller)

Also on Friday night’s bill is Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih, which means ”Honorable Dream Come True.” You can expect to be enchanted by a night of Javanese classical court dances performed by the local gamelan ensemble. Plus, a shadow puppet play, directed and performed by B.R.M. Bambang Irawan, music director of the Court of Surakarta in Central Java, together with dance director Nanik Wenten.

Then on the afternoon of Saturday, April 29, the World Music Student Showcase Concert will feature the CalArts Balinese troupe, Gamelan Gong Kebyar Burat Wangi (”Fragrant Offering”), directed by veteran CalArts faculty members I. Nyoman Wenten and Nanik Wenten. The pair will fuse gamelan traditions with contemporary music and dance elements. For those of you who have never heard gamelan music before, it sounds like nothing else. The clang of these Indonesian metal percussive instruments is absolutely entrancing and hypnotic. Even the composer Debussy was smitten with them when he first heard them during the Paris World Fair back in 1900. Minimalist composer Steve Reich is also a fan.

Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri performing in the CalArts Percussion Ensemble at the 2011 World Music and Dance Festival. (Photo by Scott Groller)

Classical Indian music lovers are in for a treat on Saturday night, when the CalArts Tabla Ensemble performs both traditional and contemporary Hindustani tabla music. Afterwards, the esteemed Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri—Ravi Shankar’s favorite tabla player—and sarod master Ustad Aashish Khan will perform together onstage. World music fans, this is a performance you won’t want to miss.

The World Music and Dance Festival closes Sunday night with the Aza! The CalArts West African ensemble will present music and dance from Ghana, along with special guests Volta Drum Dance.

It’s an amazing festival that showcases a rich offering of world music traditions—from Indonesia to India to West Africa—that we don’t get to see enough of here in Southern California. The festival takes place at Wild Beast music pavilion on the CalArts campus in Valencia. It’s certainly worth the trip to see all of these wonderful artists performing in one place. And best of all, it’s FREE! For more information, call 661-253-7825. Reservations are suggested and can be made here.

Nani Agbeli, CalArts Faculty in the Herb Alpert School of Music’s African Music and Dance program, performing at the 2016 CalArts World Music Festival. (Photo by Karley Sullivan)

CalArts World Music and Dance Festival Schedule

7:00 pm: Didik Nini Thowok & Maria Darmaningsih perform “A Javanese Dance Duet”
8:00 pm: Gamelan Kyai Doro Dasih perform “A Night in Java: Music and Dance”

1:00 pm: World Music Student Showcase Concert
4:00 pm: Gamelan Burat Wangi present “A Traditional and New Performance from Bali”
7:30 pm: Tabla Ensemble Concert
8:00 pm: Ustad Aashish Khan and Pandit Swapan Chaudhuri present “North Indian Classical Music”

2:00 pm: CalArts’ North Indian Music and Persian Ensembles
5:00 pm: World Percussion Ensemble
8:00 pm: Aza! and Volta Drum Dance present “West African Music and Dance”

A short clip featuring some of the festival performers:

Transgender Indonesian superstar Didik Nini Thowok (both humorous and touching).

And finally, traditional dance by Nani Agbeli, the director and performer of the Aza! West African Ensemble.