The universal language of drumming will be soothing Penticton this weekend during the Rhythm Festival.
“We have handed out over 1,000 handbills and we have had a really great response here. I am expecting a good turnout, including people from Nelson where we have been putting the word out as well,” said Bobby Bovenzi, executive director of the festival which runs Friday and Saturday.
Rhythm Festival was conceived in Kelowna, but after a three-year run it was decided to change the venue to Penticton for 2013. Organizers said this is because of the growing base of those interested in percussion and musical rhythm in the South Okanagan, especially women.
“I think many times the women were drummers back in ancient history and I think there is something empowering and builds community for women in their mid-stages of life,” said Bovenzi. “They are looking for something new and take advantage of something uplifting and empowering and the drum seems to be that tool.”
It is why he chose Navaro Franco, who has worked as a drummer and percussionist for 22 years, as one of the lead workshop instructors. She also has studied subtle forms of energy healing and practises yoga, tribal and ecstatic dance forms.
“I thought bringing in this female energy as a workshop leader would be encouraging to the women who have come to my workshops and are interested,” he said.
Also coming to lead workshops is Kesseke Yeo, who started dancing at seven years old and by 11 went to the Ivory Coast National Ballet, touring around Africa and Europe. In 2001, he moved to Vancouver and currently dances for Masabo Culture Company and his own group, West Meets East.
Bovenzi said there are many free events for those who are curious to check out the festival, starting on Friday with performers entertaining the crowd at Gyro Park as part of the free summer concert series Sunshine Cabaret. The performance starts at 7 p.m. and features Russell Sparrow, Yamabiko Taiko, The Rippers, and Nankama West African Drum and Dance with Navaro Franco.
On Saturday, under the tent outdoors on Orchard Street, there are workshops by donation. Funds go towards covering the cost of the festival, some of which was covered by generous donations from local corporate sponsors.
The by-donation workshops include a drum circle, zumba class, funk and hip hop dancing with Jake Evans, poi spinning and more starting at 10 a.m. and going until 6 p.m. Also on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. various percussion workshops and performances will take place inside the Orchard House and St. Saviour’s Church Hall including drumming for adults and children, Afro-Cuban drumming, Taiko drumming and more. Tickets for the indoor workshops and performances are $15 each. Performances follow the workshops and outdoor sessions on Saturday starting at 7:30 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. featuring local band the Tragic Hip Replacements and Navarro Franco’s Rhythm Healing Journey. At the free outdoor area the Kalumba Afro-Cuban troupe and Bahiti Belly Dance perform from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
The festival wraps up with a free outdoor concert with Kinshira and Donnalee poi spinning and a drum jam. A section of Orchard Street will be closed for the day to allow for a food and artisan market, the tent workshops, free performances and the finale.
“The finale should be really fun with fire spinning and a drum circle together. We are also hoping Kesseke Yeo brings a few of his costumes from the Ivory Coast to dance in, it will be a really neat thing with the drums and fire spinning,” said Bovenzi.
Workshop seating is limited and buying tickets in advance ensures your spot. Tickets will be sold at the event if space is available. Instruments are available within workshops on a first-come, first-served basis. More information and a detailed list of the workshops is available at www.OkanaganRhythmFest.ca.