Music and dance fill the bill this weekend in Juneau.
The CrossSound Music Festival promises to be an entertaining and culturally rich event, and musicians and composers from Douglas, Asia and Europe will participate.
You've heard the erhu before, but probably didn't realize it. Its fluid, resonant tone, surprisingly like the human voice, is a commonly featured on the soundtracks for Chinese films. This weekend is the rare opportunity to hear the erhu, a cool Chinese instrument played live.
The erhu is a two-string Chinese "fiddle", played with a bow. Virtuoso Liu Jing from Nanjing, China, performed solo Wednesday at noon in the atrium of the State Office Building and the sound was captivating. It's a very melodic instrument with a surprising range for its small size and two strings.
Other musicians include Jocelyn Clark playing the koto, a 13-string zither-like Korean instrument, and Italian accordionist Teodoro Anzellotti. Thirteen local musicians, including the Nimbus Ensemble and members of the Juneau Symphony will also participate. Bob Banghart, best known as a swing, jazz and Cajun fiddler, will be playing mandolin in an ensemble piece composed especially for the CrossSound Festival.
Last year the music and the performances were well worth the admission price, and I have no doubt the same will be true this year. There will be two performances with completely different players and music. The first is at 7 p.m. Saturday at Northern Light United Church. The group then plays in Sitka, and returns with some Sitka musicians for a performance Sunday, Sept. 10, at Chapel by the Lake. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for students and seniors.
Another rich cultural event is happening this weekend in Juneau - Pow Wow 2000, the Gathering of the Tribes. Drummers and dancers from a variety of western tribes - Cree, Lakota, Hochunk and Sioux will join Athabaskan, Tlingit and Yupi'k dancers from across Alaska. Organizer Garfield Katasse said the event is open to everyone. Dancers in full regalia will perform a wide variety of styles - solo, in groups and collectively.
Katasse called the pow wow and opportunity for Alaska dancers to share Alaska Native culture with Native Americans from down south. Unlike the pow wows popular down south where dancers compete for cash prizes, none of the performances are competitive.
Where I grew up in Northeast Oregon pow wows were pretty common. The dancing styles are quite different than Alaska styles, and the showy dances like fancy dances are great. I attended the Juneau pow wow three years ago and I was impressed by the dancing. I'd guess this event promises to showcase a pretty good variety.
The event Sunday and Monday runs from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. each day. There will also be food, arts and crafts. The performances will be in Juneau-Douglas High School and the craft fair will be in the commons area. Admission to the drumming and dance performances is $10 each day for adults and $5 for students, and the craft fair is free.
For a fully participatory dance experience, head down to the Hangar on the Wharf tonight, Saturday or Sunday to catch the reggae hip hop and ska band from Anchorage, First Trax. This seven-piece dance band specializes in laying down the dance grooves. The band kicks off about 9:30 p.m. each night.
There's a $3 cover, which should not be a problem. I'll admit in my early 20s I fell into the category much maligned by bartenders - the water drinking hippie. New to the scene, I hadn't figured out how bars made the money to pay the bands I loved to hear. I actually liked cover charges - that meant the waitresses were a lot less likely to hassle me and my friends with pressure to buy drinks.
Here we're a little spoiled, we rarely ever have to pay a cover charge to hear live music. That's great, and I appreciate it. But it's a no-brainer that bringing a seven-piece band from Anchorage, putting them up and paying them costs a lot more than hiring local folks, and it's a treat.