Performing Arts: Jewish music fest a free outdoor bash 

To honor its 25th anniversary, the Jewish Music Festival is throwing a party for several thousand people.

Scheduled for Yerba Buena Gardens and environs for noon to 5 p.m.  Sunday — with a special follow-up concert by nomadic/genre bending/electronica wonder Watcha Clan with Charming Hostess on July 18 — the JMF’s multi-ring circus is packed with events.

That includes eight major performances plus interim acts on the main stage, an instrument petting zoo and three renowned children’s performers on the children’s stage, along with a special children’s instrument making workshop at the nearby Contemporary Jewish Museum.

An extra treat is the world premiere of Dan Plonsey’s Bar Mitzvah with Dandelion Dance Theater, also at the museum, with dance legend Anna Halprin.

Were Kugelplex’s shtetl-rocking soul music not enough, Charming Hostess has created The Bowls Project in the Yerba Buena Center’s Sculpture Court at Third and Mission streets.

The multi-media installation, conceived by Jewlia Eisenberg, is an immersive performance inspired by amulets used in Jewish homes in ancient Babylon.

If Eisenberg’s exploration of sex, magic, and secret desires in a fabulous double dome makes you want to abandon Oz for Kansas, how about Cantor Linda Hirschhorn’s singing workshop, Peter Jaques’ Makam workshop on Middle Eastern modes, Glenn Hartman’s Klezmer workshop, or Dror Sinai’s Dumblek and Middle Eastern Rhythm workshop?

All events in Yerba Buena Gardens and the Zeum Ampitheater are free of charge.

“Over the years I’ve scouted festivals around the world,” says Eleanor Shapiro, the festival’s director. “I’ve only found two big Jewish Music Festivals that are free, and they are in Toronto and Poland. For our silver anniversary, I wanted to give us a third.”

Once Shapiro decided to create a Bay Area event showcasing Bay Area artists, the community and funding sources rallied to the cause.

“This is a general music event that will touch all music lovers,” she says. “The bands may be playing Jewish music, but it’s often klezmer or a unique Latin/Sephardic jazz mix that appeals to a diverse audience.”

An example of the latter is Kat Parra. Mentored by Patti Cathcart of Tuck and Patti, Parra initially made a name for herself in salsa, opening for the likes of Celia Cruz. Simultaneously delving into her family’s Sephardic roots, she began merging Spanish-tinged Jewish music with the Afro-Latin rhythms she had come to love.

Imagine a cocktail that blends Parra’s Sephardic Afro-Latin music with the Vietnamese-Jewish comedy of Joe Nguyen.

For an extra kick, throw in “radical Jewish Renaissance Rap” by the only act from outside the Bay Area, Ephryme from Brooklyn (of course).

If you need more of a jolt, check out Joshua Walters, who holds forth with spoken word and beatbox.

In an area known for its uniqueness, the 25th Jewish Music Festival just may win the prize.


25th Jewish Music Festival

Where: Yerba Buena Gardens, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Contemporary Jewish Museum, Mission Street between Third and Fourth streets, San Francisco

When: Noon to 5 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Most events are free

Contact: (800) 838-3006;

Note: Watcha Clan Direct and Charming Hostess appear at 8 p.m. July 18 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts; tickets are $20-$25.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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