York music festival celebrates culture and tradition

World Music Festival event poster

York University’s World Music Festival is taking place March 10 and 11 in the Tribute Communities Recital Hall. This cross-cultural celebration spotlighting musical traditions around the world offers six in-person concerts with options to attend online.  

Produced by William Thomas, associate professor in the Department of Music at the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design (AMPD), this global sonic tour presents a sampling of several international cultures represented in York’s world music program. 

“Exposing our students to the diversity of music found around the world has always been an important component of the study of music at York and has distinguished our program from others in the province,” says Thomas. “Very early in the development of the program, founding Department Chair Sterling Beckwith felt that the study of global music was important in developing the musicians of the future and course offerings in South Indian Carnatic music were offered to York students.” 

This year’s festival will feature more than 100 students in six performances of music from around the world including, Balkan, Brazilian, Caribbean, Cuban, Celtic Canadian and West African ensembles. 

“These students and their instructors have done an amazing job preparing for these performances in what has been a very short time since we have returned to live instruction,” adds Thomas.  

On March 10 at 11 a.m., the festival will kick off with Cuban Ensembles led by Rick Lazar, ensemble director, and faculty member with AMPD. The course focuses on Cuban folkloric music, where students will learn the various conga drum and bell parts, songs and dances that form the various rhythms.  

Lazar will also host Escola de Samba at 1:30 p.m. In Brazil, escola de sambas are samba schools which embrace and celebrate culture by teaching the samba rhythms in the various neighbourhoods of Rio de Janeiro and all other major cities in Brazil. Students will play samba from Rio and two rhythms from the state of Bahia: Samba Reggae and Timbalada. The students will also perform a samba-reggae dance routine. 

At 2:30 p.m., AMPD’s faculty members Kwasi Dunyo and Larry Graves will host West African Drum Ensemble: Ghanaian. The final event of the day will take place at 7 p.m. and will be led by faculty member Gareth Burgess to host Caribbean Music Ensemble.  

On March 11, Celtic Canadian Folk Ensemble will begin at 1 p.m. with Associate Professor Sherry Johnson.  

The festival will conclude with a Balkan Music Ensemble led by faculty member Irene Markoff at 7:30 p.m. Audiences can look forward to being captivated by irregular rhythms that defy Western notions of symmetry, the clashing, yet exuberant sounds of rural singing styles, and innovative arrangements of traditional music enhanced by virtuosic instrumental improvisations. 

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