Monday, October 11, 1999

WorldJam bounces back from watery weekend

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        It started as WaterWorldJam, but after Saturday's storms forced the cancellation of the first day of Cincinnati's newest and most diverse music festival, WorldJam dried off and came back hot.

        And though the free fest never regained the momentum lost to the bad weather, Sunday's lineup of global groups had a crowd estimated at around 8,000 milling between the three stages spread along Fifth Street from Main to Vine.

        They came for Arthur Hull's impromptu drum circle, dozens of neighbors banging away on djembes and other hand drums.

        They came for the exotic sounds of such local groups as the Cincinnati Klezmer Project, a quintet specializing in the alternately uproarious and mournful music of pre-Holocaust Eastern European Jewry. The sound of Michele Gingras' crowing clarinet soared through the concrete canyons of Walnut Street, as some in the crowd assayed a dance that was part cossack, part Funky Chicken.

        Ecuador's Andes Manta, the only band that managed to play a set Saturday before the storms closed the show, returned Sunday to a Fountain Square filled with people instead of water. As rain gently misted the crowd, the quartet played the gently rhythmic music of Andes Indians, performing on an array of multi-stringed instruments and panpipes. Some of the latter were taller than the players, producing unearthly deep, breathy tones.

        Retumba! was one of the more varied bands on the bill. The 10-member group, predominantly women with a few male guest instrumentalists, played heavily percussive music from the Caribbean. That basic description encompassed drums-and-chanting rituals of Cuban santeria, a religion mixing Catholic and pagan African beliefs, to a pop-flavored salsa from New York's Hispanic community.

        While all this was going on there were workshop-style performances on the small stage at Main and Fifth. That's where Muzsikas gave a mini-concert and Hungarian dance lesson. The biggest name on Sunday's show, Muzsikas fielded the unique ensemble of two violins, a chordal, three-string viola and a three-string bass, played percussively with a very short bow.

        Adding a carnival flavor, Bakra Bata was set up under a small tent at Fifth and Vine. The street group played steel drums, congas and hand-held percussion, creating a calypso-flavored, Afro-Carib sound that filled the street with dancers and listeners.

        The food vendors were bit more conservative, as world flavors represented included sausages from Italy and Germany, nachos from Mexico and corndogs from the U.S.

        Despite the disappointing turnout, there will be a WorldJam 2000, says Bob Elias, executive director of Cincinnati Arts Festival, Inc., producer of the event.

        “Unfortunately the weather wasn't with us this year,” he said. “But I think the people who came out today are enjoying themselves. Cincinnati is ready for something like this.”


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