ashland.news
June 14, 2024

Across the valley, across the world: Rebranded Rogue World Music Festival returns for ninth year

Dancers, led by Sophia Blanton, program manager for Rogue World Music, led a dance to Rik-Sha's music at the 2022 festival in Lithia Park. Bob Palermini photo/palermini.com
May 20, 2024

The annual Rogue World Music Festival anticipates 8,000 visitors

By James Sloan, Rogue Valley Times

A diverse array of performances, folk songs and other productions are coming to the Rogue Valley later this week, celebrating cultures across the globe from Classical Arabic and Andalusian music to the traditional sounds of Zimbabwe.

With its first year under the name Rogue World Music Festival — formerly the Ashland World Music Festival — organizers are anticipating approximately 8,000 visitors to attend at least one of the festival’s six events and programs throughout the four days.

The festival is free to attend and set for Friday through Monday, May 24-27, with performances and programs occurring in Ashland, Medford and Talent.

“We’re feeling really excited,” said Ana Byers, executive director of Rogue World Music. “This is part of our long-term strategic plan to really begin shifting our programs in general as an organization.”

Apart from the festival name change, multiple events and programs will occur outside of Ashland, including the festival’s opening event at Medford’s Pear Blossom Park.

The Percussion Workshop — scheduled from 4 to 5:30 p.m. Friday, May 24 — will kick off the Rogue World Music Festival with an immersive experience led by John Mambira.

“It’s always a sleeper hit,” Byers said of the workshop.

Mambira, a specialist in percussion drawing from the rich tapestry of Zimbabwean traditional music blended with African pop, southern African rhythms, reggae and afro-jazz, will present the practice of gumboot dancing.

The dancing practice originated in South Africa as a symbol of unification and resistance to oppression during Apartheid — a period of racial segregation under the all-white government of South Africa during the mid and late 20th century.

The dance was originally used as a form of communication between miners in South Africa’s gold mines who were forbidden from talking to one another.

“During the Apartheid era it was a means of resiliency and maintaining hope and pushing back against oppression post apartheid, and very much viewed as a valued practice and symbol of resilience and connection,” Byers said.

Almost everyone was dancing during the San Francisco Yiddish Combo’s performance in 2023. Bob Palermini photo

Other artists and performers coming to the Rogue Valley include the Latin folk music of singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist La Doña, Classical Arabic and Andalusian music and original compositions from duo Seffarine and more.

Talent will host the festival’s SongWeavers Circle and HeartBeat Stories at the Talent Commons Library Park, offering participants the opportunity to listen to and immerse themselves in ancient and modern songs as well as hearing music and stories on the theme of “home” during HeartBeat Stories.

“The stories can encompass anything, really, so many musicians talk about their sense of home within and cultural-identity expression and the home found in a community of musicians,” Byers said. “It’s always such a beautiful surprise every year, the stories that come out.”

A key focus each year for organizers is providing a space to not only encounter new music from diverse cultures, but to get immersed in it through dance or other forms of participation.

“In so many cultures around world, music, dance and storytelling are not something you watch passively, it’s something that cannot happen without participation from the group,” Byers said. “We’re wanting to provide more community engagement opportunities, especially in Lithia Park.”

The final two days of the festival will occur in Ashland, with six musical artists performing at Lithia Park’s Butler Bandshell from noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 26.

Those performers include The John Mambira Band, Seffarine, La Doña, Duniya, Hālau Hula Ka Pi’o O ke Ānuenue and Marvel Road.

Other performers throughout the festival include Dirty Cello, Renegade Orchestra and Yelena Valerievna.

Rogue World Music started in 2009 as an adult choir that sang world music and has since adjusted into a three-person nonprofit organizing the festival with the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission since 2016.

The Medford Parks and Recreation Commission joined this year as the Rogue World Music Festival expanded beyond its typical Ashland setting.

“We want this event to be a destination anchor event for the Rogue Valley,” Byers said.

For more information on the Rogue World Music Festival, visit rogueworldmusic.org.

Reach reporter James Sloan at jsloan@rv-times.com. This story first appeared in the Rogue Valley Times.

Picture of Cameron Aalto

Cameron Aalto

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