This is the poster art that Diana Hartman created for the first Palo Alto Fete de la Musique in 2009 but that the committee refused to print. Although a lot of good came out of my involvement, as a member of the founding committee that year, overall I have a bitter taste in my mouth, and have not worked on the two successive events, 2010 or the upcoming event, Sunday, June 19, 2011 .
I got involved with the event originally at the suggestion of Peter Drekmeier. I knew Peter from my days at Bay Area Action, where he was a director and I was a volunteer on an Earth Day event, in 1993. BAA used to feature a lot of music at events, and in fact the first Earthwise concert at Cubberley was co-sponsored by BAA, who received a share of the modest gross.
One of my first ideas for “Palo Alto World Music Day” was to invite Rupa and The April Fishes, and I confirmed their availability with their agent. Bandleader Rupa Marya is a Castilleja graduate but has never had a show in Palo Alto per se. But the format was to have only unpaid performers, which I thought was ill-conceived considering the valuable imprimatur the City was lending to the event, and the staff time, including a set aside by council decree for extra police hours. In contrast, I suggested we look for a sponsor for the proposed show, perhaps at Mitchell Park Bowl, that Rupa was holding the date for. Although I recruited some musicians for the first event, and even performed myself, as Beat Hotel Rm. 32 (an Allen Ginsberg “Howl” tribute, with my fellow Gunn grad Steve Rothblatt on drums), most of my suggestions fell on deaf ears. Worse, it seemed to me the poster idea (it was more than an idea — it was film-ready and the money for printing was set aside by Drekmeier our mayor) was killed purely because of a power struggle between myself and the event’s founder. (He claimed he was worried about being sued for copyright infringement based on the poster depicting Robert Johnson; I claimed it was Fair Use; we both protested too much, methinks).
Further and perhaps more relevently, I continue to fret about the use of the term “world music” in the name of the event, since it does not intend to recruit (or pay for) international music. (I, in contrast, truly thought initially that that was the point of the event, that Council was honoring “world music” and not merely agreeing to put on a “Fete De La Musique;” among my suggestions was to bring in Neighbors Abroad, our Sister Cities group, and have music representative of those affiliated countries, like Mexico Japan and the Phillipines). But no, in Palo Alto “world music day” means “world-wide,” or that we, like farflung others, are following the lead of something happening in France.
For a while I was forwarding said-music-czar links to world music events in other other parts, like the New York globalFest and Michael Orlove’s Chicago series, hoping he’d take my hint, but to no end. Granted there is no unanimity about what makes “world music.” Even David Byrne, founder of Luaka Bop Records, has his quibbles. Here is a link to David Byrne’s essay on world music, called “Why I Hate World Music”, from 1998. Don’t be confused, however. David Byrne loves the music of Brazil, Spanish-speaking countries, and out of Africa, surely. He doesn’t like the overly-broad term “world music” as it applies too often in the the market. I think he would agree with me that in the case of our upcoming event the use of the term “world music” is ludicrous, asinine and disingenuous — he would surely hate it. Since our local event is splitting from most other “Fete De La Musique” which take place on Solstice i.e. to take full advantage of the long daylight hours, and sticking to Sunday, Father’s Day, like in 2009, — maybe they should call it Palo Alto Father’s Day Unpaid Musicians Day, which would be more honest, and unique.
Actually, the more I think about it, I realize that the great Sierra Nevada World Music Festival is taking place the same time as our little affair. So I hereby declare June 19 the “Earthwise World Music Day in Boonville, California near Mendocino and Clear Lake” and suggest that all music-loving, open-minded and limber-hipped people boogie on up to the North Coast and check out Ozomatli (who played here in Palo Alto, at Cubberley, in 1998), Vusi Mahlasela (and on the previous day, Saturday, you can check out Thomas Mapfumo and Rupa Marya, among many others; it’s a camping thing more than a day trip). More than ten thousand people on that ubiquitous social media format “like” this event, which is worth the three hours drive (153 miles, according to that other ubiquitous site) if you like music from around the world, like reggae. But having done shows locally with Ozomatli and Femi Kuti, I think this “Palo Alto World Music Day” is a huge missed opportunity. For a taste of what I’m talking about, and the type of thing that motivates me, here, as suggested by Warren Smith’s festival site, is a taste of Vusi: