This weekend is the Nineteenth Annual Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, held at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds in Boonville for the seventh year. Producers Warren Smith and Gretchen Franz are relishing in the delight of the well-oiled machine that their festival has become, and the crew of friends and family that create it.
"It's so special to walk around and see such dear friends and family, and to be part of this wonderful crew that makes this festival happen," said Franz. "It feels great here in Boonville, like we've finally settled. I love seeing the kids that we used to see alongside their parents now grown up and having their own kids. Plenty of those kids that have grown up with the festival are now taking on production responsibilities...I love it!"
"It's amazing to see how the efforts of a few people have grown into the large crew that is now the SNWMF family," said Smith. We're talking in the production trailer backstage, the sweet sounds of Foundation Reggae from Prince Allah spicing our conversation of the importance of sharing music and culture. "We try to have a lot of cultures represented here," said Smith, "that brings about more understanding, more peace. It helps to combat racism. That's why we do this. We have the most ethnically diverse crowd at any festival that I've been to. I mean, we have all ages here, from babies to elders and all in between. All ages, all races, all ethnicities...there's something for everyone here and we're all here to learn from each other, to exchange, to get together and share."
Smith estimates that some 20 percent to 30 percent of the SNWMF audience is from Mendocino County. And the rest of the crowd comes from all over the nation and globe. Since utilizing the online ticketing facility Eventbrite, the organizers can track who's coming to this festival and from where. "Every year we're seeing the same people, but instead of buying two or three tickets, they're buying five or six...they're bringing their friends, their family...this is a grass-roots, word-of-mouth festival, and many of the people who come have been coming for years," said Smith.
SNWMF is known for bringing in artists from all over the world, artists that many audience goers would not have a chance to see otherwise without racking up thousands of air miles. Prince Allah, for example, is a Foundation Reggae artist from Kingston, Jamaica. He has been in the music industry for more than 30 years, and SNWMF is his first visit to the United States. "Every year I ask people Who do you want to see?' and every year they tell me the same thing," said Smith, "Surprise me!
"We kind of go against the grain of what everyone else does in the industry. We don't want artists that are on tour, or artists that you can see anywhere...We like to come up with artists that no one else has seen. We have a very intelligent audience that expects that...So, every year I scour the face of the earth looking for new surprises." To that end Sunday's festival lineup includes artists representing five different countries, each band made up of musicians from a multitude of backgrounds and cultures.
Local public radio station KZYX is broadcasting live from the festival, both online and on the radio at 90.7 fm, enabling people to listen along in the comfort of their homes. The Sierra Nevada World Music Festival Facebook page is continually being updated with up-to-the-minute photographs so all can follow the action vicariously. But, this festival is most definitely best enjoyed live and in person. It's not just the music, which is indeed wonderful. It's the people, the colors, the smells, the taste of the world in food, arts, clothing and crafts that are available here, representing small pieces of cultures from near and far.
Coming to SNWMF is a journey around the world that is available right next door at the Mendocino County Fairgrounds. It is an opportunity to celebrate diversity in our world, a chance to take what we know and share it with others, and vice versa. It is an adventure that we can share with friends and family, old and new. It is an experience not to be missed. Sunday only tickets are available at the gate. For details and more information, check the festival website at www.snwmf.com.
"Every culture in human existence has its music; that mysterious event that begins with a simple change in air pressure and becomes in our minds the song of a voice, the beat of a drum, and the hum of a string. It reflects the sound of every age, the joy of life, the passion for love, and the struggle for freedom. It's the sine curve in geometry, the perfect wave, the voice of the cosmos." SNWMF Festival Family