Strike the Spring Sing stage, but UCLA traditions remain. Through the Spring Festival of World Music and Jazz presented by the UCLA Department of Ethnomusicology and the UCLA Hammer Museum, students can showcase more worldly music.
The Festival of World Music is a free annual performance tradition first established in the early 1960s, when Mantle Hood founded the Institute of Ethnomusicology within the music department. For students who have taken ethnomusicology courses throughout the year, the Festival is their time to showcase what they’ve learned. And for faculty it is a chance to see the product.
The Spring Festival of World Music will continue this weekend, Saturday, May 10, with the Music of the Balkans Ensemble and Music of Korea Ensemble. It will last until June 3 when it concludes with the Big Band Jazz Concert series, featuring the UCLA Jazz Orchestra and Latin Jazz Ensemble.
“It’s a very important time in the history of our department annually and a renewal of the celebration of who we are and what we represent,” said Professor Jacqueline Cogdell DjeDje, chair of the ethnomusicology department.
For UCLA students and faculty, these performances are especially relevant, considering the cultural and ethnical diversity of Los Angeles.
“We should always find moments to celebrate cultural diversity and look at the traditions that other people have created, and we learn about traditions and other people ““ their history ““ through music,” said DjeDje.
In the past, the 500-seat performance hall has been completely filled for certain well-received ensembles, including Music of Mexico, Music of the Near East and Music of Korea.
Last Saturday exemplified the festival’s ability to introduce students to musical traditions from other parts of the world.
The UCLA Near East Ensemble showcased Professors Shujaat Husain Khan’s and Abhiman Kaushal’s students on musical instruments from the Arab world, particularly Eastern Mediterranean cities such as Cairo, Damascus and Beirut. The musical pieces included court music, sufi-related works, night club and folk songs, as well as some modal improvisation.
The takht, a traditional small ensemble, began with more contemplative pieces infused with solos and the rich sound of violin strings. Pieces ranged from up-tempo to other more classical songs, which included variations but always came back to the melody. In a piece called “Aziza” by Egyptian singer and composer Mohammed Abdel Wahab, the audience was able to clap along and some women were inspired to get up and dance.
Romeo GuzmÃ¡n, a graduate student in ethnomusicology, is the teaching assistant for the Near East Ensemble course and also the festival’s assistant director. Having studied several instruments including the qanun or kanun, a traditional string instrument, and the nay, an end-blown flute, GuzmÃ¡n performed the nay in particular because he has always been mesmerized by its sound.
“I was interested in studying jazz but also people from all over the world and their culture through music,” GuzmÃ¡n said.
Faculty and students like GuzmÃ¡n are fortunate to have resources like authentic instruments imported from other countries. The ethnomusicology department’s funding has not always granted such luxuries.
“There was a time during the 1990s that we did not have the funding to have our annual spring world music festival,” said DjeDje.
Lacking funds, the department began to contact other venues in the city, receiving an overwhelming response from venues that wanted to make sure the festival remained an annual tradition.
The Hammer Museum was among these venues and continues to support the ethnomusicology department.
Director of the academic and residency programs at the Hammer Aimee Chang said the Spring Festival of World Music is just one of the many collaborations between the Hammer and departments on campus.
“The spring festival of music has been something that we’ve been doing with the department of ethnomusicology for a while, and it’s something we are excited to keep doing,” Chang said.
In addition, this Saturday, students will be putting on Worldstock, a free, completely student-run world music festival.
The show will feature talent groups formed outside of the UCLA-affiliated ensembles, who will perform everything from rock and jazz to bluegrass and reggae.
Kiran Gupta, a fourth-year ethnomusicology and music composition student, is also the president of the Ethnomusicology Undergraduate Student Organization. Attesting to the wide range of music to be showcased at Worldstock, Gupta is part of an Indian jazz fusion ensemble.
“We definitely have a lot of musicians who are very forward thinking; students will be exposed to very new kinds of music, because UCLA has one of the most progressive music departments in the country, if not the world,” Gupta said.