Renée C. Byer /

Dewa Ayu, 13, has her headdress fixed by her mother, Emiko Susilo, before performing a Balinese dance at SacWorldFest.

SacWorldFest exhibits great range in old city

Published: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am

Barbara Bergum was intrigued by the unusual instrument that a musician from Senegal was playing in Old Sacramento Sunday.

“It’s so powerful, so beautiful,” said Bergum, 64, of Sacramento. “It’s rare to find someone who knows how to play it.”

Bergum was among the 50 or so people who gathered to hear Grammy nominee Youssoupha Sidibe play the kora, or West African harp, at the sixth annual Sacramento World Music and Dance Festival, or SacWorldFest.

“Our goal is to celebrate the fact that we are the most multiculturally assimilated city in America,” said Steve Hammond, president and CEO of the Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau, which sponsors the event. “We want people going up and down the street experiencing and learning about other cultures.”

Early Sunday afternoon, about 500 people were checking out the festival, which usually draws about 10,000 over the course of the day. A variety of dance and music groups performed on three stages along Front Street, between I and L streets.

Sidibe, 47, who emigrated from Dakar, Senegal, in 1998, was happy to talk about his music. In 2007, his album “Youth,” which he recorded with American reggae artist Matisyahu, was nominated for a Grammy as best reggae album of the year.

While he was performing at the Global Village tent Sunday, he asked the audience how many knew what instrument he was playing. Only a few hands went up.

Most of the songs that Sidibe writes are about the people and plight of Senegal and Africa.

“When you hear the music, you forget everything else going on in life,” he told the audience, “There is so much pain that we suffer that we have to release it. Music helps us move on every day.”

Ling Hsiao, 50, of Rancho Cordova was impressed with the Sidibe’s performance.

“It’s very good,” she said. “His instrument is very special.”

This was the second year that Hsiao and her husband, Phil Lutz, 55, have attended SacWorldFest.

“I like to look at different cultures, and this is a very clean event that I like to come every year,” she said.

At the Waterfront stage, Elizabeth Williams, 32, of West Sacramento and her two children, Ella 2, and George, 3, watched the Dancers of Gamelan Sekar Jaya perform numbers from Bali and Indonesia.

“Their outfits were crazy – very festive,” she said, adding that this was the first time the family had attended SacWorldFest.

“I came down here because it’s a free event for families,” she said. “It’s a great way to expose the kids to different cultures, different music and dances.”

The family stayed to catch the Midway Marvels, a steampunk band that performed a number of lively Americana and new folk songs.

“The kids like the drums,” Williams said.

Read more articles by Tillie Fong

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