Saturday, March 24

Festival displays cultural influences


Thursday, May 28, 1998

Festival displays cultural influences

MUSIC: Beginners, experts showcase diverse talents,

tradition from around world

By Harshan Jeyakumar

Daily Bruin Contributor

Almost 30 years ago, Suenobu Toyi served as a court musician to
the emperor of Japan when he decided to come to the United States,
an unprecedented move by anyone in his position. After teaching at
UCLA for 24 years in the ethnomusicology department, Toyi retired,
returning to Japan to teach as a Buddhist temple instructor. This
year he returns to UCLA with a group of musicians for the
Ethnomusicology Spring Festival.

Toyi’s visit bridges the gap between international artists and
community musicians, both of which will participate in the diverse
eight-day ethnomusicology festival taking place from May 28 to June
5 in Schoenberg Hall. Toyi and his assemblage joins the current
student group in Friday night’s Japanese music ensemble to perform
two dance pieces from Toyi’s court repertoire. They will be one of
12 different world music ensembles to perform throughout the

"The festival really is an end result of a year’s worth of
teaching. One of the great things about these non-Western
traditions is that very often – not in every case, but in many
cases – they make beautiful music out of the combination of
relatively simple parts," says Professor Timothy Rice,
ethnomusicology department chair and the leader of the Balkan

The ensembles meets year round with undergraduate and graduate
students from a variety of different majors across campus. The
performances include beginning musicians along with advanced
performers. Even people outside the UCLA community can join, as is
the case with the Near East and Mexican Mariachi ensembles for this

"An ensemble director will have connection to a community
musician and will bring in these artists from the community. We can
have everything from beginning students to the advanced students to
the ensemble teacher to artists in the community all playing
together in a room," Rice says.

However, the department chooses the leaders from the best
available, internationally-known native performers with deep roots
in their tradition. Francisco Aguabella, director of the Afro-Cuban
group, and Nati Cano, leader of Mexican Mariachi ensemble, have won
National Heritage Awards.

"Fortunately, some of the people (residing) in Southern
California are among the best people we can find, probably in the
world, to do some of this kind of music," Rice explains.

"Every once in a while we are able to bring in someone from a
foreign country. Last year, for example, we had one of the very
best young sitar players from India; he is the successor to a very
deep and rich tradition in India, and he taught here for two
quarters. So whenever we can we try to bring in people from the
home culture."

This year’s festival has grown in size from last year. A central
figure in organization and promotion is Miriam Gerberg, the
festival’s outreach director. Responsible for the department’s
publicity, she is also starting programs in schools, exposing
younger students to the study of world music.

"(The festival) has kind of been a hidden gem," Gerberg says.
"We’re not sure how many people on campus even know how spectacular
(the festival) is."

The ensembles themselves are usually quite a mix of cultures -
only the leaders consistently have a direct connection to the
culture of music performed. This year, Rice is the only exception
to this rule, due to the absence of a Bulgarian musician to lead
the Balkan ensemble. UCLA had such a musician in residence until
recently, and Rice hopes to bring in another Bulgarian musician for
next year.

"It’s important to us that we really have master-teachers from
the culture. But the attitude is very inclusive. We have a mixture
of people who are in these ensembles who are a mixture of their
background," Gerberg says.

"It’s not desired to be limited to only people of that culture,
and also it’s not only for people not of that culture."

Rice adds, "I think these ensembles serve two purposes. I think
they serve what we sometimes refer to as heritage students; for
example, Japanese students who are particularly interested in
exploring their own culture come and join the Japanese ensemble.
Also it serves the other purpose of cross-cultural understanding. I
think both purposes are laudable, and we support both."

MUSIC: The Ethnomusicology Spring Festival occurs May 28 to June
5 at UCLA’s Schoenberg Hall Auditorium. Admission is free. For more
information, call (310) 206-3033.

UCLA School of the Arts and Architecture

The African American Ensemble, comprised of UCLA ethnomusicology
students, prepares for the spring festival.

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