Celebrating its 30th anniversary this Saturday, the 2009 Multicultural Festival (MCF) boasts a wide variety of cultural performances and ethnic cuisine.
Titled “Unity Under Changing Skies,” this year’s festival will focus on the growth within cultural communities. Additionally, the event will feature both traditional and contemporary performances, from Indian dancing to hip-hop, samba and much more.
Among the 18 participating groups are the Chinese Student Association, serving Boba tea, the Filipino Student Association, with hip-hop group Haluan, and the Indian Student Organization.
Adrian Dorris, a UC Santa Cruz alumnus and SOAR advisor who helped plan this year’s festival, hopes the program will create a multifaceted view of cultural groups on campus and beyond.
“Having both traditional and contemporary representations from different cultures distinguishes them from romanticized stereotypes,” Dorris said. “It shows that people have very complex cultural experiences.”
Third-year biology major Ronika Kalpage said that nothing was black and white about growing up Indian-American. A member of UCSC’s Indian Student Organization, Kalpage will be dancing with fellow club members at the festival. She said that participating in the club’s events, including the Multicultural Festival, opened her eyes to her own background.
“Growing up, I wasn’t really exposed to Indian culture outside my immediate family group,” Kalpage said. “I wasn’t classically trained in Indian dance, so I’m glad that we have things like the Indian Student Organization and the Multicultural Festival. They allowed me to learn and experience things I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.”
Kalpage’s performance will be on the traditional side, with the group dancing Bhangra, an Indian folk dance with ancient roots dating back to 2000 BCE.
“Cultures are constantly changing,” said Arpan Bajaj, a member of both the Indian Student Organization and MCF’s planning committee. “Most of the cultures outside the U.S. are much older. They started out very basic and old-fashioned, but they’re still around and are really coming into the world. Representing older and newer interpretations shows the growth that takes place within these communities.”
SambaDa, a local Afro-Brazilian music group, will be headlining the MCF this year. Identifying themselves as a “samba-funk dance music” group with reggae, hip-hop and capoeira beats, members agreed that combining these different styles has made their work appeal to a wider audience.
“We use our exposure to old Brazilian traditions, but it’s more fun to put our own unique impression into it,” band member Marcel Menard said. “We’ve found that bringing in new musical ideas is more successful with Bay Area crowds. Even though we’re singing in Portuguese and people don’t always know what we’re saying, it still hits them hard. There’s some reggae in there or a funky back-beat that people can grab on to and relate to.”
A veteran Porter student, Menard’s interest in Brazilian music was sparked while studying fine arts at UCSC. Joining campus music circles and cultural dance classes offered at the East Field House created a foundation for Menard’s current musical career.
His experiences here still resonate with him, and he hopes to continue connecting with the university through music.
“It’s really important for us to perform up on campus,” Menard said. “We get a really warm reception from the older students that come to see us at clubs, but it’s essential that we connect with the under-21 crowd too. It’s nice when we can step into their university bubbles and share something with them. We’re overjoyed whenever we can play for UCSC students.”
Dorris hopes that SambaDa’s performance will help to create visibility for the group and invite a wider audience to campus. While MCF participants are excited for the headlining band, Dorris said that the event’s priorities lie in strengthening student organizations.
“So many of these campus communities are underrepresented, and the opportunities to express themselves can be very limited,” Dorris said. “We’re hoping to provide a lot of education and encouragement by bringing all these different organizations together to create this one great day.”
The 30th annual Multicultural Festival will take place at the Oakes Lower Lawn this Saturday from noon to 6 p.m. Admission is free.