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Photo by Bryon DeVoreWorld Ensemble Music and Ashland Parks and Recreation partner to host the annual World Music Festival in Ashland's Lithia Park.

Music and songs from around the globe at World Music Festival

Music from Mexico, Spain, Greece, the Balkans and Zimbabwe — presented in its native languages — will be at the heart of the annual World Music Festival this weekend.

Rogue World Music and Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission partnered to present this year’s event at Butler Band Shell in Ashland’s Lithia Park.

Look for Rogue World Ensemble and Choristers, along with bluegrass and Americana by Rainey and the Rattlesnakes; Mexican folk dances and music by Ballet Folklorico Ritmo Alegre and Mariachi Centella; modern acoustic swing by Flat Five Flim Flam, played in the historical style that linked America and Paris in the ‘30s and ‘40s; rhythmic guitar, percussion, vocals and dance grounded in Spanish traditions by Flamenco Pacifico; Greek and Balkan Music by family band Dromeno; and marimba band Rutendo, playing joyful tunes from Zimbabwe.

The festival kicks off at noon Saturday, May 19, with a performance by the Rogue World Choristers — a group of local school kids. Look for “Funga Alifia,” a welcoming song from Ghana, and American melody “Glorious Mud Silly Song,” before the Rogue World Ensemble — the adult group — joins them on stage. Admission is free.

“This is the first time that the adults and kids are performing together,” says Val Rogers, the ensemble’s executive director. “In many cultures of the world, intergenerational singing and dancing are a common form of recreation accessible to everyone. We want to bring that to our community because we believe it is good for health and happiness.”

The ensemble and choristers will join to perform “Tue-Tue,” a work song from Ghana, “Dodi Li,” an Israeli folk song, and “Keep a Song in Your Pocket,” a camp song from the U.S.

Jenifer Joy, the Choristers’ music director, says teaching children how to sing is a rewarding process because it goes beyond music lessons.

“My intent is to bring children together in community and sing songs from other lands so we can decrease the foreignness, and teach kids to accept people from other cultures,” she says. Joy conducts after-school singing sessions at elementary schools throughout Jackson County. The 12 or so children set to sing Saturday are all from the Phoenix-Talent School District.

The adult ensemble fluctuates between 20 and 40 members and performs full-length concerts in various Rogue Valley venues. About 20 vocalists will perform in Saturday’s half-hour-long performance. Two of the members also play accompaniment: Harmony Haynie on guitar and drum, and Rael Reif on drum.

Look for “Cantare,” which translates to “I will sing,” according to Rogers and interim music director Shaun Garner.

Written in Spanish by Mexican composer Jesus Eschevarria for U.S. choirs with the purpose of bridging cultural differences, “It has a lively Latin beat with guitar accompaniment,” Garner says.

Another song, “Foliada de Carramales” comes from Galacia in northern Spain, although the composer is unknown. Rogers calls it a “flirtatious folk song.”

“It’s sung in Galician, an older form of Spanish, and the exact translation is uncertain,” Garner says.

“We’ll sing ‘Roll the Old Chariot Along,’ a British sea shanty based on an African-American spiritual, and ‘Mairi’s Wedding,’ a traditional Scottish wedding song,” Rogers says. “From Guinea in West Africa, there’s ‘Djala Ba Bindo’ that we do with drums and dance. It’s a healing song, to bring a person back into balance and alignment internally and with the community.

“And ‘Caribbean Alleluia’ is a fun, upbeat setting of the word alleluia, sung in call and response,” she says.

The performances will include brief narrations explaining each song’s history and message.

Rogers, who also sings with the ensemble, says Saturday’s event is the third annual World Music Festival and the second one in Lithia Park.

“The partnership the ensemble has with the Ashland Parks and Recreation Commission and the generous support of local businesses make this festival possible,” she says. “By bringing all this together, we are creating a place for people to discover and delight in music, dance, food and art from many cultures. We are doing it in Lithia Park because that park is the heart of our community, where locals and visitors are already meeting, mingling and finding refreshment.”

Look for international food and artisans at the festival, along with group folk dances at the Ashland Community Center, 59 Winburn Way, directly across the street from the park.

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