Las Parrandas

In the Days Before Christmas, Cuba Erupts in a Celebration of Lights

Seasons Greetings from the Center for World Music!

As our thoughts turn to Christmas, and celebrations, why not look at Christmas celebrations in Cuba, also on the horizon these days?

In 1820, as the story goes, a young priest noticed diminished attendance at mass from December 16 until Christmas. Hoping to attract parishioners, he instructed children to go out into the streets with cans, horns, bugles, rattles or any kind of noisemaker, hoping that the raucous noise would attract churchgoers. As the tradition evolved, organized bands began playing music in the streets, competing with each other for the honor of best performance.

Along with music, [the town of] Remedios—still home to the country’s largest and most popular Parrandas—fills with light during the festival.


Great Circle Dance

Theofania in Northern Greece: Dance Rituals of Blessing and Protection

A photo-essay describing village ritual dances with strong resonances with pre-Christian Greece . . .

It is dark; it is snowing; I am here not as an observer only, but with friends, and so I surrender to the hours and days of drinking and dancing, feeling myself warmed and transformed by this inner and outer fire. . . . By three o’clock, the whole village gathers at the plateia to dance. Hundreds of people spiral into a single circle with one leader, keeping the large center open as a sacred space . . . to enact the ancient ritual dramas of death and resurrection . . .

Read in the KEF Times.

Galloway Folk Music

Musicians ‘singing back to life’ forgotten Galloway folk music

Some 80 traditional musical arrangements sourced from across Scotland in the early 20th century have been discovered, and contemporary musicians are breathing new life into them . . .

 “It’s something that’s really important to me, to encourage people to sing and to bring these local songs to life so they’re not lost,” said [musician Robyn] Stapleton.

“We have got some fantastic songs that I have been working on personally and I am looking forward to be able to perform songs that people haven’t heard before.

BBC South Scotland

NBC News

California Public Schools Get Creative to Save Arts Programs

The plight of arts programs in California public schools, and its impact on children, was featured in the NBC Nightly News for December 17. The segment shows how Takio drumming–supported by community-based funding–helps to fill the gap in a San Francisco-area school.

Creative young minds, talented kids, who deserve help, but for them the school money just isn’t there anymore, the way it was for so many of us in things like the arts . . .

View at NBC Nightly News.

Worth a look, and some thought: would you consider taking a minute to support this kind of creative effort in San Diego?


Active Participation in Music Education Improves Academic Performance

Another good read on the value of music education, noting that the benefits are dependent on learning to play music, not just appreciate it . . .

In the study, which appears online in the open-access journal Frontiers in Psychology, the team showed that exposure to music lessons physically stimulated the brain and changed it for the better. However, simply being exposed to music education doesn’t seem to be sufficient, you have to also be actively involved.



Vichitra Veena

Maestros of the Vichitra Veena

Lovers of Hindustani music will find this essay, with choice old videos on YouTube, a good read/listen . . .

Abdul Aziz Khan’s music demonstrates that he incorporated his sarangi phrasing in the vichitra veena recitals.  Each of the recordings displays the maestro’s amazing ability to caress the melodic phrases and almost make the instrument “sing”, a difficult task on a fretless instrument.

Read and listen at

World Dance

Around the World in Twenty Dances

Rough Guide has a nice photo spread on World Dance.  Worth a look!

“The black clothes of mourning are as heavy as iron,” goes a memorable line from one syrtos-accompanying song. But you won’t be needing your hankie for tear-mopping in this dance. A handkerchief always joins either two or all of the participants, who are formed into a chain, with each person facing sideways. Mentioned in the annals of ancient Greece, syrtos is one of the oldest known dances and is enjoyed worldwide by the Greek diaspora.

Much more . . .   See Around the World in Twenty Dances.

Benefits of Music Education

Benefits of Music In Our Schools

The National Association for Music Education provides its list of what students’ gain from music . . .

Nearly everyone enjoys music, whether by listening to it, singing, or playing an instrument. But despite this almost universal interest, many schools are having to do away with their music education programs. This is a mistake, with schools losing not only an enjoyable subject, but a subject that can enrich students’ lives and education. Read on to learn why music education is so important, and how it offers benefits even beyond itself.

Read more here.

Molly's Revenge

Celtic Trio Molly’s Revenge Performs in Encinitas December 13

San Diego Folk Heritage presents Molly’s Revenge, a trio of acoustic Celtic musicians, with vocalist Christa Burch and Irish dancers, Saturday, December 13, 2014 in Encinitas, CA.

Molly’s Revenge is a dynamic, acoustic Celtic band known for its unique and infectious enthusiasm. The classic combination of bagpipes, whistle, and fiddle, with a backdrop of guitar, mandola, and bodhran guarantees an enjoyable experience for all fans of Scottish and Irish music. Molly’s Revenge has performed at many of the top folk festivals and performing arts events in the USA, and prestigious events in Scotland, Australia and China.

I Nyomen Wenten

USD Gamelan to Perform with I Nyoman Wenten, December 9

The USD Balinese Gamelan performs on Tuesday, December 9, 2014. The program will feature dance master I Nyoman Wenten, a long-time friend of the Center for World Music, as guest performer.

Enjoy the music of Bali, Indonesia at this concert performed by USD’s Balinese Gamelan Ensemble, named Gunung Mas (Mountain of Gold), directed by IPutu Hiranmayena and assisted by David Harnish, PhD. This concert will feature several special guests: Dancer I Nyoman Wenten and drummers I Wayan Budha and Tyler Yamin. The gamelan is an ensemble of metallophones, gong-chimes, cymbals and drums, and highlights energetic interlocking musical parts.

University of San Diego, Department of Music.

USD Gamelan Flyer