By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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Na Hula 'o Wahine, Zaya, Mary Flower, Maria in the Shower.
These are a few of the 60-plus groups and troupes to perform indoors and out during the 19th annual Juan de Fuca Festival of the Arts, today and all holiday weekend long.
The pageant of music, dance, visual art and comedy — more than 80 shows — tumbles across seven venues, with the Vern Burton Community Center, 308 W. Fourth St., acting as epicenter.
The musical map is an expansive one: Tonight and Saturday afternoon, the Portland Cello Project blends pop and art songs; Baka Beyond, a band of African, American and British musicians, plays at 8:30 p.m. Saturday; Maria in the Shower brings its cabaret act down from Vancouver, B.C., tonight and Saturday; Alma Villegas of Alma y Azucar offers the sound of her native Mexico on Sunday.
That's not to mention Thomas Mapfumo of Zimbabwe, who brings his band, the Blacks Unlimited, all the way out to Port Angeles for two shows tonight.
Mapfumo, known as much for his social activism as for his music, will take the main stage at the Vern Burton center at 7 p.m. and then go up to the Elks Naval Lodge ballroom a few blocks away for a Juan de Fuca After Hours dance concert at 10 p.m.
Also today, the San Francisco band Blame Sally will dish up Americana and rock 'n' roll on the Vern Burton stage at 8:30 p.m. for a show that will lead straight up to the After Hours events.
Festival passes — $60 for four days, $17 for today or Monday only, $20 for Saturday or Sunday — provide admission to all of the morning-till-late-night performances. The nonprofit event is family-friendly; children 12 and younger get in free.
Those without festival tickets, meanwhile, pay $8 to attend the After Hours shows at Bella Italia, 118 E. First St., Bar N9ne, 129 W. First St.; the Elks Naval Lodge, 131 E. First St.; and the CrabHouse, 221 N. Lincoln St.
Dan Maguire, the executive director who's been booking acts since August, set out to make this festival a rich gumbo of world culture, concentrated in and around downtown.
“It's a real opportunity for folks to experience art and culture you hardly ever see,” he said. This weekend is about discovery, Maguire added, discovery of a whole world of music — for the price of a tank of gas.
Maguire added the Elks stage and the CrabHouse to the After Hours lineup this year to accommodate more listeners, more dancers — and laughter, all after 10 p.m.
The Elks has Mapfumo tonight, the folk-rock band Fish and Bird on Saturday and country-soul with Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers on Sunday. The CrabHouse After Hours slate has Abby Mae & the Homeschool Boys tonight, the improv comedy troupe The Edge on Saturday and Canadian stand-up comic Damonde Tschritter on Sunday.
“Dan has done a phenomenal job of booking this festival,” said Neil Conklin, owner of Bella Italia and host of After Hours shows tonight through Sunday.
“Bringing more activity downtown has always been a challenge,” he added, but these gigs have begun to make it happen.
The late-night events cap full days of music and dance on the festival stages. Here's another sampling: Blues singer Mary Flower plays the Chamber Stage on Saturday afternoon and Bella Italia that night; Trio Voronezh, a Russian band discovered while playing in the Frankfurt, Germany, subway, arrives on the Chamber Stage on Sunday; Michael Shrieve, Santana's drummer at Woodstock, brings his band Spellbinder to the main stage Sunday evening, to be followed by soul-singing sensation Allen Stone.
Then there are Zumba and tango classes and a hula performance with the local troupe Na Hula 'o Wahine. This group of women, led by Mahina Lazzaro of Sequim, will dance at 2 p.m. Sunday in the free-admission area in front of the Vern Burton center.
Also free are outdoor performances by Sequimarimba, the Black Diamond Fiddle Club and other groups Saturday; an African drumming workshop and a performance by Hapy's Oasis Dance Co. on Sunday; and the country band Luck of the Draw plus Zaya, another local marimba group, Monday. Wrapped around them all is the street fair outside the Vern Burton.
New this year is the Art Shack, a display and workshop space just inside the Vern Burton center entrance. Yoga, art and drumming classes run from 11:45 a.m. until 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Monday.
Back on the main stage, another group is coming a long way, bringing music from still farther: Zili Misik, the seven-woman band from Boston.
Led by percussionist, singer and professor Kera Washington, Zili stirs together the sounds, rituals and rhythms of the Caribbean, West Africa and Brazil in two Saturday shows: at 3:30 p.m. at the CrabHouse and at 5:30 p.m. on the main Vern Burton stage.
And since the band seeks to introduce young people to its music's global connections, Zili also will give a workshop today for students at Port Angeles High School.
Washington, reached at her Massachusetts home earlier this week, said she hopes to inspire listeners with this African-based music — in all its joy and strength — that has captivated her and the band for a good 12 years now.
“When we come out, people might say, 'Oh, they're all girls. That's cute,'” she added. But Washington means to show that Zili is more than pretty; “I want them to be blown away.”
Spirit of music
Blame Sally, another all-woman band, likewise represents the spirit of music for its own sake — and not necessarily for fortune and fame.
The Sallies got together 11 years ago just for a good time; in their late 30s and 40s, they had had it with the pop music industry's penchant for 20-somethings.
“We were tired of playing games, of feeling insecure,” said Blame Sally drummer Pam Delgado.
“So we said, 'Let's just play music the way we like it. Let's be who we are.'”
That's turned out quite well, thank you: Blame Sally has become one of the most popular music-festival bands in the country.
Last year at the Sallies' Juan de Fuca debut, “we had such a blast,” Delgado added. This year's concert will be “a very diverse show. We do everything from Americana to world [music].”
With that kind of variety, Blame Sally epitomizes the Juan de Fuca Festival.
For complete information about the lineup of performances and other activities, visit www.JFFA.org, pick up a free schedule at one of the festival venues or visit the Juan de Fuca Festival Facebook page.
Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at email@example.com.