Jossue Giron, an 8-year-old mariachi singer performs at Saturday’s World Music Fest at Heritage State Park in Lynn. Photo by Paula Muller
By Adam Swift
LYNN — Music has power, whether it was born in the union halls of the early 20th century or on the coast of Africa centuries ago.
The Eighth Annual World Music Fest celebrated that power on Saturday at Lynn Heritage State Park.
The waterfront festival, hosted by the Highlands Coalition, Lynn Arts, and the Downtown Lynn Friends of Lynn Heritage State Park, is an opportunity for people from different cultures to come together and celebrate diversity as well as the ties that bind us all together, said David Gass, Highlands Coalition director.
“It’s all about life; it’s all about experience, from the lullabies to the African drummers that imitate the movements of the birds,” said Gass, who started the festival eight years ago.
While there are many opportunities in Lynn for ethnic and cultural groups to gather and celebrate their own heritage, the World Music Fest brings all those groups together to explore and experience the great cultural melting pot that is America at its best.
“For me, one of the great things about having the festival is that we live in a multicultural city. It’s a great way for people to enjoy the music and get to know each other,” said Leslie Greenberg, chairwoman of the Highlands Coalition Board.
This year’s festival was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Ireland and to Joe Hill, the labor troubadour, who said “don’t mourn for me, organize.”
The music got off to a rousing start as John Hicks performed the music of Hill and the labor movement, breaking out the Wobblies (also known as the Industrial Workers of the World) songbook at one point.
For Gass, Greenberg and several other self-described old folkies, honoring the labor movement in Lynn, which holds a vital place in the history of unions in the country, was an obvious choice.
“These are songs that our mothers and fathers sang; these are movement songs,” said Gass, adding, “What kept Lynn alive was the labor movement. These are all of our favorite songs.”
While Hicks and his union songs hued most closely to the themes of the workers’ movement, each of the artists addressed the struggles and joys of their cultures when they hit the stage.
Also performing throughout the day were KAYA, presenting dances from Cambodia; the St. Mary’s Haiti Choir with its renditions of gospel and Haitian folk tunes; Puck Fair with Irish folk music and tales of the Easter Rising; Cape Cod African Dance and Drum; Jossue Giron, an eight-year-old mariachi star; Sylvester Yarpah singing songs from Liberia; and Julio Bare & Co.
KAYA is a youth leadership and development program at the Lynn YMCA.
“We are representing Cambodian culture with the magic scarf dance,” said Wanntha Sim Chanhdymany, the director of grants and volunteers for KAYA. Since it formed in 2009, she said KAYA has played numerous events throughout the city, but that it always makes it a point to contact Gass to perform in the annual World Music Fest.
Greenberg and Gass said one of the big goals of the festival is to educate as well as to entertain. Throughout the day, there were workshops including poetry with Elizabeth McKim, kora with Yokuba Diamante, leaf painting with Bob Levine, and dance with Marcy Newhall and Studio 6.
“We do not want to just do a bunch of songs and have people go home,” said Gass. “We want this to carry on to inspire people to play the music.”
For many of those in the audience, the festival exemplified many of the goals of a true community event.
“There’s great music, great people, and we get to support the Highlands,” said Natasha Megie-Maddrey.
Adam Swift can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.