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The Ins & Outs: Countdown to the Festival on the Green

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a blog about music, visual arts, entertainment and everything in between
by tamara hilmes, intern

guy mendilow logo

Welcome to the second installment of the Countdown to the 31st annual Festival on the Green, which will be coming to Middlebury July 12-18. So soon! What with only a few weeks to go, I am going to do my best to highlight the diverse range of musical talent that will be showcased in this year's festival. Last week we took a look at Crooked Still, an alternative bluegrass band, and while bluegrass/country/americana tends to dominate this annual event, this year's festival also includes honky tonk, jazz, and more eclectic and less-traditional, world music, which brings us to this week's featured band:

the Guy Mendilow Band

Cited as "inventive world music and outreach" on both the band's web site and the festival site, and described as "Israeli peace songs and Sephardi canticas meet Bahian street beats and blues," let's just say that this isn't your typical down-home string band. While many of the groups performing in the festival are native to Vermont or New England, Israeli-born musician Guy Mendilow has lived in Israel, South Africa, and Brazil, and members of his band hail from Japan, Israel, Argentina, and oh yeah, the U.S.

So we've got the "world" piece down, but where does the "outreach" come in? The band has been partnering with international peacemaking organizations, the most recognized of which is Seeds of Peace, the international youth leadership organization found in 1993 by journalist John Wallach. The main camp, which is located in, um, Maine (Otisfield, to be exact), plays host each summer to teens for conflict-ridden countries and leads them in dialogue, in hopes that they will "open lines of communication" between peoples. Mendilow, according to his site, believes that "music, and music making, can play a unique role in the effort to transform “the other” into a fellow human being to whom one can at least listen, if not necessarily agree." Thus, music, in his mind, can bring together various people in a way that nothing else can.

World, check. Outreach, check. So now, on to "inventive," which the band's latest album, Skyland most certainly is. Each track is a curious and eclectic blend of sounds, styles, and languages. In "Sala'am," a bluesy harmonica is combined with an upbeat tempo and harmonies sung in hebrew. The harmonica, and guitar, however, are just about the only instruments that I was able to recognize and name; the band plays a wide range of ethnic instruments including the Cajon, which is basically a plywood box with sound-hole cut out of the back side, is an Afro-Peruvian mainstay. The Electric Mbira and Berimbau and other woodwind instruments are also featured in this hard-to-pin-down sound. Confused? So am I. And I just discovered that the "harmonica" that I was relieved to hear was actually a "jaw harp."

Clearly, I'm not going to be much help in picking apart the music of this world-fusion, band, so I recommend you check the Guy Mendilow Band out for yourself on Thursday, July 16 from 12:00-1:00 p.m. during the "Brown Bag Special" slot, specially designed for the family picnic crowd. In the meantime, catch the jaw harp, Berimbau, and more in action online. Lucky for us, Guy usually explains how he coaxes music out of the bizarre contraptions he's holding...

So, be sure to take your lunch break on the Green from 12 to 1 on July 16, and in the meantime, check back here on Thursdays for more musical murmurings and band profiles as we continue to count down to the Festival, blog-style.

Online editor's note: Check back next Thursday for another update in the "Countdown to the Festival on the Green" series by Addison Independent intern Tamara Hilmes.

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