World View, Local Crew: Ashland’s First Annual Siskiyou de Mayo: A World Music Festival
“It cannot be stressed enough that an understanding and appreciation of music outside of the US (or at least ‘Western’ music) is instrumental in helping us not just understand, but truly appreciate other cultures,” says Tom Berich, leader of Maraval Road Steel Band. This local ten-member group is, in fact, “the largest professional steel drum ensemble on the west coast,” Berich shares. He’s been performing as a professional steel pan player for more than twenty-four years and worked with SOU’s Terry Longshore to develop Maraval Road: they’ve been around for three years with more than forty performances, but rarely perform in Ashland.
Lucky for us, that’s about to change.
On Saturday, May 14, Maraval Road will be joined by an array of performers at the inaugural Siskiyou de Mayo: A World Music Festival. Last year, Ashland Parks and Recreation put on a small Cinco de Mayo event, featuring a musical performance and Latin rhythms workshop. Community interest and input helped sprout this seed: Lonny Flora, Recreation Manager at Parks and Rec coordinated what’s become a multi-performer event in the hub of downtown at the Lithia Park Bandshell. Though Flora says there is already a growing vision for the future of Siskiyou de Mayo, it’s going to start with the wealth of multicultural talent right here in the Rogue Valley.
“We’re focusing on local groups,” says Flora, who sees the possibility for inviting out-of-town talent in the future.
Among these groups is Salsa Brava!, an eight-piece multi-style dance band whose performances include Afro Cuban salsa, son Cubano, and Latin pop, among others. Singer Christina Marsilia, keyboardist Anne Muth, percussionist Mike Fitch, and trumpeter Joe Fascilla have been performing in Salsa Brava! since 2006. Additional members have been added over the years, giving the group its big sound and great musical diversity. The band’s talent is well-known around the Rogue Valley, particularly their “beat that makes the body want to move,” Marsilia shares. This is evident in the salsa dance crowd that follows Salsa Brava! around the Rogue Valley each year, who will likely add some impromptu Latin dance from the audience.
Also performing is Unity African Drum & Dance, a local group that teaches and performs West African music and movement: “When the organizers of Siskiyou de Mayo approached us with the idea we were very excited because everything we do is in the spirit of multiculturalism. We will be performing dances and rhythms that have been taught to us directly from Master teachers from West Africa.”
Though the group has only been performing since 2014, they have been holding dance classes for six years and drumming classes for five. This class community not only helps make the performance group possible, but also contributes directly to Guinea, largely through the nonprofit organization Guinea Exchange. The group is led by dance instructor Cynthia Neeley with support from drum teacher Daouda White Eagle and Master drummer Dibo Camara.
They shared the deep connection that inspires their performances: “Every song we play has a specific meaning that relates to life. It is important to us to share this with our audience members as a way to pay homage to the roots of the music and dance we play.”
The rest of the Siskiyou de Mayo line-up will include Rutendo Marimba, Frankie Hernandez Band, Ka Pi’o O Ke Anuenue with Ha’ena, and The Rogue Poets, a group of local wordsmiths assembled by T Poe, local Slam Master and the first MC for this yearly event. T Poe, who is no stranger to music festivals around the Rogue Valley and has been performing his own poetry for about a decade, was a logical choice. The poets joining him — Blaine Alexander, Claudia Alick, Liesl Garner, and Scott Wozniak — will offer up poetic material “promoting multiculturalism” between musical acts, shares T Poe: “All the acts will have a Latin flavor. This being the first annual festival, it will focus on this theme.”
Though it’s no small feat to get a brand new music festival up and running, Lonny Flora says “community sponsorships have been key.” Sponsor Rands Art Design will be on site with their mobile print shop, which means you can buy a Siskiyou de Mayo t-shirt that will be printed before your eyes. The event is also sponsored by Main Street Tours and will feature free shuttle service to and from several locations around town, making this diverse afternoon of music even more accessible.
Siskiyou de Mayo: A World Music Festival
1 – 6 pm, Saturday, May 14
Lithia Park Bandshell, 340 S. Pioneer Street, Ashland
Lithia Park Bandshell, Ashland