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The San Francisco International Arts Festival now rocks with world music

Wednesday, Sep 3 2003
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San Francisco is a grand city for culture vultures: With its opera, symphony, and multiple world-class dance and theater companies, museums, and galleries, each night of the year is stuffed with mind-expanding possibilities. But unlike, say, New York's, our local arts aren't much of a tourist draw. Visitors come for the food, the queers, the Golden Gate Bridge, but often leave the city without ever poking a nose into our plethora of arts offerings. The San Francisco International Arts Festival is trying to change all that, with the inaugural edition of an event organizers hope will become a major attraction like similar fests in Montreal and Edinburgh.

From Sept. 4 through Sept. 21 the weeks are packed with a spate of theater, dance, and music featuring artists from around the world. And since the SFIAF absorbed the 4-year-old San Francisco World Music Festival, some of the coolest offerings are aural. Chief among them is a sort of United Nations of orchestra by Lebanese composer Marcel Khalifé, with vocals from Lebanese soloist Oumayma El Khalil and women's Eastern Europe ensemble Kitka and instrumentation from the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and Chinese musicians. Other highlights include the two-part "Ancestors of Siberia," which features throat singers, folk dancers and musicians, and shaman spiritual elders from Central Asia, and joyous Afro-Cuban jazz from the Omar Sosa Quintet. Those who are customarily exposed to world music only through flavor-of-the-month radio programming would do well to listen up.

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Joyce Slaton

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