While WordFest celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, the Global Indigenous Peoples Village within the world music festival is celebrating a milestone of its own. For eight years, the village has been conducting performances inside of WorldFest, within its own area. Now, with the help of a grant and increased interest, the program is expanding and taking a more prominent role in the festival’s activities.
The Global Indigenous Peoples Village was created in 2008, and known as the Native People’s Village. The name change is new, to help symbolize its growth and to indicate that it truly is a global event, not just a local one.
Mignon Geli, a co-coordinator of the village along with Ann Kastner, has been involved with the village since its inception. In its first year, Geli performed with flute band Loping Wolf before signing up as a volunteer.
“I knew (Kastner) from participating in Indigenous People’s Day in Nevada City,” said Geli. “In 2009, she was asked to run the village. That year, I was not invited by Loping Wolf to perform again as I was not really a part of (their band). So I was not invited, and I talked to the chairman and told him I couldn’t get in to WorldFest that year. They said I could volunteer, so I got in touch with (Kastner) and she put me in as a volunteer. I started by assisting her, and ever since then we’ve coordinated the village. Our responsibilities grew as the village grew.”
Geli detailed growing pains over the years, including the inability to pay performers. Geli herself was not given compensation; instead, Kastner would give Geli half of the stipend she received. It was not until after the Center for the Arts purchased WorldFest in 2014 that she was added to the payroll.
The festival’s acquisition by the Center for the Arts proved to be a boon for the Native People’s Village. Executive Director Julie Baker says they were immediately interested in providing assistance to Kastner and Geli.
“They had essentially been programming both traditional native tribes coming in and doing dance and musical performances, as well as artisans and storytellers,” Baker said. “They were almost doing it on their own. In a sense, it was a festival within a festival when we inherited WorldFest.
“We saw that and we thought, ‘Wow, this is critical in terms of being a component of the mission of the festival,’” Baker continued. “We have really embraced it and now work very closely with (Kastner and Geli) to program that area.”
The Global Village’s expansion includes a new stage. Once known as the Oak Grove Stage but now renamed the Global Stage, this new space gives Kastner and Geli an opportunity to have a full, three-day schedule.
“I think it’s great,” said Geli. “Last year, we were only given the 10 a.m. stage and we could only book three acts. But this year ... we now have more time to include our performers.”
“Instead of having a small area for the village and a regular stage right next to it, we’ve expanded it to be the Global Village. Now they have a stage, a lounge and the area where there’s dancing, artisans and performances,” Baker said.
The Global Village will begin with an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. Friday, July 15. Notable acts will include Sihasin, a band that mixes Native, rock, punk, and world music; Earth Guardians, an eco hip-hop group led by 15-year-old Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, and much more. A full schedule of the events taking place on Friday, Saturday and Sunday can be found at http://worldfest.net/global-indigenous-peoples-village/.
“We’ve taken the concept and (made it bigger),” explained Baker. “The Global Village has its own schedule with three days of programming. We’ve also done workshops that are going to be on the stage. For example, there’s an Iranian Tar player named Sahba Motallebi. And she will, at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, teach a workshop on Persian music, Persian instruments and also what it’s like to be a woman and a Tar player in a country like Iran.”
Another new idea to come out of the village’s expansion, says Baker, is an indigenous music jam that will take place at 3 p.m. on the Global Stage each of the three days.
“Essentially, as all of the artists that are going to be at WorldFest arrive, these artists are invited to come and jam. This is a new thing this year that we’ve not done before, and it will be led by Mignon,” she said. “It has this really amazing potential to be a cross-cultural, global exchange of ideas through music. It’s taking another step in terms of cultural engagement and giving patrons an opportunity to have a deeper experience with the artists and an understanding of their cultures.”
“It should be pretty interesting,” Geli said. “I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but I can just imagine a lot of drumming and a lot of dancing, because I’m going to ask all the dancers in their different styles to perform. We’re just going to have a big jam session that will include dancing and the audience ... It’s going to be a true world festival.”