The city’s new sound

Jeff vonKaenel

“Now, ladies and gentlemen, that is tango!” said David Graybill, alias DJ David, after 10 or so couples completed the complicated dance to “La Cumparsita” onstage at the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival held in early October in Old Sacramento. The tango demonstration, put together by tango enthusiast Damien Kima, was a bipartisan affair where four competing Sacramento tango organizations came together in an unusual demonstration of unity.

But the fifth annual Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival was not just about tango. It was also the African Fenix Drum and Dance Company. And the Bolivian Corazon de America. And Raices de Mi Tierra, featuring dances from Mexico. And the Sinag-Tala with dance, theater and song from the Philippines. And the Henna and Kohl Bellydance Company. The list even included live reggae with Urban Fire and ended with a hip-hop dance off. And then there were the kids.

I have to admit, I am a sucker for the kids, particularly those in costumes. I would call them “native costumes,” but true native costumes for these kids would come from Target or Gap. These kids were wearing clothes from their cultural heritage. You could feel the effort and the love that went into putting together those outfits.

I should mention that I am on the board of the Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival. The festival’s founder and main driver is Lina Fat. She had a vision of celebrating Sacramento’s diversity by showcasing our little-known but excellent local ethnic music and dance groups. The volunteer board and the part-time staff, especially Mon Hart and Brett Freeman, respectively, worked very hard to present this free event.

While I was there, I saw the board chairman and the head of Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau, Steve Hammond. Steve really puts a lot of time into making the festival a success. He felt that we had “accomplished everything that we had hoped for, celebrating and honoring the unique culture and diversity that are present in the Sacramento region.”

But what struck both of us, as we enjoyed Mistura Brasileira’s live music and dance, was the diversity of the groups. This Brazilian group was led by Patrick Galego Hilligan, who for the last 22 years has dedicated his life to capoeira, a traditional martial art that “includes rhythm and strategy.” Patrick is not Brazilian at all. He is of Irish descent. But his love and dedication to the art is infectious.

So many of the groups took the traditional music and dance and made it their own. They created innovative and personal art. This is a sound that reflects the diversity of our community. With around half of the community’s kids being first- or second-generation Americans, we can be and should be a natural place for a brand-new sound. I think I heard the beginning of it in Old Sac.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.