San Francisco International Arts Festival brings Mission to Fort Mason
Over the years, the San Francisco International Arts Festival more than lives up to its name, featuring a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-garde Czech theater and Costa Rican modern dance to Pakistani Qawwali singers and Argentine tango, the organization has carved out a rarefied niche for itself by presenting artists who would not otherwise have the opportunity to perform here. .
But the region’s cosmopolitan nature means that the SFIAF also programs many Bay Area artists steeped in traditions from abroad, and no neighborhood is more visible at this year’s festival than the Mission. Returning to Fort Mason on October 23-24 (with online offers starting October 20), SFIAF’s condensed fall program includes theater, dance, performing arts and music, and Mission-related artists are represented in just about every discipline.
âWe know we have global cultural riches right here in the city, especially in the Mission,â said Andrew Wood, Founder and Executive Director of SFIAF.
âThere’s a global gathering here all the time, and it’s the immigrants who provide that energy. ”
In terms of music, the disproportionate role of the district as an incubator and showcase for global talent is particularly evident at the SFIAF. Looking at some of the Mission musicians featured this year, what is striking is both the resilience of the performers and the fragile nature of the scene.
From the Spanish rock movement of the 1990s, Los Nadies is a pan-Latin American ensemble that refines a mixed sound combining rock and cumbia, flamenco rumba and soukous, nueva trova and reggae. The group performs on Saturdays at 5 p.m. in the eucalyptus grove, a well-suited setting for a group that can energize a dance floor or captivate an audience sitting in a nightclub.
“We have always adopted our name, trying to be in touch with the neighborhood,” said Venezuelan-born singer and rhythm guitarist Juan Cuba, referring to the oft-cited poem by Eduardo Galeano which translates to “The Nobodies “.
âThere’s a synergy between us and the audience, and we’ve found ways to connect over the years. “
Cuba founded Los Nadies about two decades ago with Peruvian guitarist Mateo Nube and Argentinian percussionist JosÃ© Vergelin, and for many years the group has been a mainstay of Sylvie Le Mer’s beloved crÃªperie Ti Couz ( which closed in 2011), opposite The Roxie. Her death last year in her native France has left many artists recalling her as “a champion who would feed us and pay us,” Cuba said.
âShe loved throwing neighborhood parties and was always pushing to make room for musicians to play. We were there regularly on weekends, with groups like Pangea Futbol Club. It has become like a network.
It’s true his name, the Mission Hot Club was also designed in the neighborhood. The Gypsy-jazz combo, which occurs Sunday noon on the Parade Ground with the special guest singer Mimi Pirard, comes from the Djangology lessons of guitarist Scott Feichter at the Community music center. By 2018, the teacher had scoured some of the more talented players in the Advanced Course and the combo began to work informally in the neighborhood.
âAt first, we played at the Mission,â French-born violinist HÃ©lÃ¨ne Bahu said during a recent Zoom session with several band mates.
âWe would start at the Community Music Center and warm up with a few songs, then walk around the mission,â said Belarusian-born clarinetist Sasha Yakubovich. âWe could stop in front of Dog Eared Books and end up in Dolores Park. “
As the group got more serious, they landed a monthly spot at Club DeLuxe on Haight Street and became regulars at the now-closed Revolution CafÃ© (an untold loss to the Bay Area’s arts ecosystem). âIt was a lovely neighborhood incubator,â Bahu said, âa fun and exciting place to try new things.â
The combo’s nickname is both an expression of neighborhood pride and a nod to a long-standing tradition. Like its repertoire and instrumentation, the name recalls that of Roma guitarist Django Reinhardt and of the Hot Club de France Quintet of French violinist StÃ©phane Grappelli, who invented gypsy jazz in Paris in the mid-1930s.
âBecause that’s where we met and started playing, we thought it was an important part of the group’s identity,â Bahu said.
âAnd at that time, everyone in the band was also living in the Mission,â accordionist Robert Kennedy added.
Although inspired by the original Hot Club, the group is less interested in recreating that bubbling sound than in finding ways to accommodate and synthesize their disparate musical interests. Nowadays, that means gleaning tunes and cadences in the acoustic Spanish, Irish, Balkan, New Orleans, and Klezmer idioms.
âWe like to play many different types of music,â Bahu said. âEverything we love, we have no limits. It is a big part of our identity.
There is no doubt about the origins of ABADÃ-Capoeira San Francisco, which presents “Spirt of Brazil” Saturday at noon on the parade ground as part of its 30th anniversary celebration. A long-standing outpost of capoeira, the Afro-Brazilian fusion of music, dance and martial arts to the elastic tone of single-string berimbau and other percussion, ABADÃ was founded in the early 1990s. by MÃ¡rcia “Cigarra” Treidler, born in Rio, one of the first female masters of capoeira.
Andrew Wood of SFIAF has played a central role in the school’s evolution as a performance organization that often brings masters from Brazil for teaching and carnival. For many years, ABADÃ was excluded from funding for the city’s arts grants because it was viewed as a school rather than a dance company.
In 2006, before ABADÃ took over the 22nd Street studio formerly occupied by the Joe Goode Dance Group, Wood suggested setting up a dance showcase at the Artaud Theater. He invited Kary Schulman, who led the Grants For the Arts program for nearly four decades, to one of the performances.
âThey drew over 1,000 people over three days and the whole building was shaking,â Wood recalls. “In three months, ABADÃ was on the list of grants for the arts.”