A recent day found Gianna Ranuzzi at the East Bay Express hunkering down staff over a full-page. The next day, she hit Alameda to poster the
“I decided instead of walking in the hills I could walk all over Alameda,”
she said. “I already did Mill Valley.”
In the days leading up to the ninth World Music Festival, Ranuzzi shifts into overdrive – publicizing, writing artist bios for the website, making sure visiting musicians have what they need, checking in on venues ranging from cafes to formal performance spaces to parks. Tuesday she swung by the city council chambers to receive the official proclamation for World Music Festival Day.
“People say it’s a journey around the world and it’s all on Telegraph Avenue,” she said. “Some come to hear one kind of music and get introduced to another."
Ask Ranuzzi to elaborate on what it takes to put on a multi-faceted
event like this, and she deflects attention to the performers – Yangqin Zhao, for instance, a Chinese virtuoso whose playing enlivens the Ultra World X-tet jazz fusion group.
Or Maria Muldaur, who will be headlining this year’s festival with her Bluesiana Band.
“She is a very loving person, very down to earth,” Ranuzzi said. “What people don’t know is she produces albums every year. She is a six-time Grammy nominee. She was nominated best blues artist of the year.”
Fourteen acts will perform in a mix of venues this year. They include Fito Reinoso y su Ritmo y Armonia (Cuban Son, Rumba and Timba), Patrick Landeza and Friends (Hawaiian Slack-Key Guitar), Bouchaib Abdelhadi (North African, Middle Eastern, and Sufi), Druid Sisters Tree Party (Celtic Gypsy Tribal Grooves), Duo Gadjo (Gypsy Jazz,), Trio Garufo (Tango Argentino), True Life Trio (Balkan and Beyond), Baron Rubenbauer (Neo-classical / Spain to India), Sadza Marimba & Mbira (Zimbabwean Dance Music), Simcha (Klezmer), Fely Tchaco (Afro Pop and Ivory Coast Tribal), and a dance concert in People’s Park from 1 to 6 p.m.
Ranuzzi has found performers by asking area musicians for recommendations. That’s how learned that one of her musical heroes, the politically influential “Lion of Zimbabwe,” Thomas Mapfumo, was closer than she knew.
“A friend said, ‘Gianna, don’t you know he lives here?’”
Working with musicians, whether little-known or well-known, brings endless fascination.
“It’s amazing to research and listen,” Ranuzzi said. “You see how a musician stretches out a note.”
She lets each decide how long to play: “It’s up to them,” she said. “An a capella singer may want to play less time. Also, it depends on the performance space. There are featured concerts, café music, sidewalk."
Over the past nine years, the festival has burnished a reputation for featuring sterling artists each year. “It’s fun to see what they do," she said. They might bring an extra musician, an extra instrument, a dancer.
They do tell us what they’re going to play."
Well, "more or less.”
And it’s completely free, powered by volunteer labor. The city and area businesses and nonprofits have thrown their support behind the festival, providing everything from full-color ads to parking and artist hospitality
to grants. Amoeba Music, a donor, is also is the place to go for information and advice.
Ranuzzi was hired to put on the Telegraph Avenue Festival. When a loss of funding cut the festival from two days to one, she gave up her salary.
As the event morphed, she called the jazz school to get some advice and followed it, retooling to have longer sets and fewer performers.
“I never would have done this if I knew what is involved, but it’s not that difficult,” she said. “You just work hard.”
If she’s got the energy and the discipline to pull it off, that may stem from her life as a craftsperson whose works appears in the Asian Art Museum among other venues. The days before holiday and street fairs are spent burrowed in the studio, working nonstop to produce.
She said she builds in time to rest and recoup along the way.
And when it's a wrap, she’s already got a two-week getaway to Montana planned.
But it won’t take long to rebound, she said.
“Just wait til our 10th, dear.”