From our sponsors:
August 9-12, 2019
Weekend passes start at $270
More info: belovedfestival.com
12154 E Alsea Hwy, Tidewater, OR 97390
Even for forward-thinking festivals, it’s easy to lean back into labels like “world music.” But they paper over a range of injustices, from chattel slavery to Eurocentric prejudice. These omissions and assumptions get in the way of restorative conversations and true appreciation of musical artistry.
They are also at odds with the vision of Beloved Festival, the long-running Tidewater, OR festival that shines a light on the spiritual side of musical experience. For Beloved, the integrity of its spiritual roots require deepening its connection to social justice. “Looking at Beloved through anti-racist, anti-capitalist, anti-patriarchy, and anti-imperialist lenses has been difficult and illuminating,” Beloved Festival founder and artistic director Elliot Rasenick reflects. “It’s been easy to get overwhelmed with an urgent need to change everything, from how we invite food vendors to how we talk about music. But this year, the time is ripe to address the way we think about music. We always knew that ‘world music’ was a stupid category. We had tried to avoid the implicit colonialist attitude, but we failed. As we know better, we do better.”
“Art is supposed to be expansive. If you’re stuck in a space, you can’t grow into it,” reflects Leilani Ayo, who performs as Witch Prophet. “In popular music, if you’re black, you are supposed to have a certain sound, but feels so limiting. The great thing about being an artist is the ability to expand and grow, to create from a melting pot. You need to be more than one thing. There shouldn’t be an either/or.”
This resonates in the festival’s lineup, which includes Nahko and Medicine for the People, Digable Planets, Ghost Note, Sudan Archives, Dobet Gnahoré, Be Svendsen, ÌFÉ, Climbing PoeTree, Taina Asili, Jupiter & Okwess, Fanna-Fi-Allah, Alam Khan and Homayoun Sakhi acc. by Salar Nader, Pandit Anindo Chatterjee, Witch Prophet, and Yungchen Lhamo. Beloved’s artists defy the either/or, thinking instead of the lineages, histories, communities, and movements that nurtured the music that forms the heart of the festival.
This approach foregrounds artists’ stories, confirming our shared humanity and potential for transformation. “At Beloved, the mainstream music industry boxes are gone,” notes artist Taina Asili. “I don’t have to conform to them. I can be multi-dimensional and responsive as an artist and have that embraced.”
“It is so important for the identities of traditional musical forms to be seen and heard on their terms,” says Alam Khan. “To expand the consciousness in regards to the way people perceive and engage with non-Western music, is to honor the roots, lineages, and life force of these healing and powerful forms.”
Previous editions of Beloved partitioned “global voices” off from other musical styles. This year’s approach recognizes the dynamic evolution of global genres and engages more deeply with the traditions behind treasured spiritual practices. Past musical acts have included everything from Sufi devotional music to deep house, from West African desert blues to alt-Latin or Yemeni indie rock, all performing on a single stage to ensure focus and foster a unifying experience.
This intentional diversity suggested other stories, ones more grounded in lived experiences, that lift limiting post-colonial labels and expand the definition of sacred music: “All music is about connection, but sacred music is created very intentionally with connection in mind,” Rasenick explains.
“When you’re present in the moment, your heart is more open. You can take more things in. Music is a healing and powerful magic,” says Ayo, reflecting the spirit of Beloved.
As Beloved has evolved, addressing obstacles to connection became a major part of the festival’s mission, and that means tackling power and privilege head on. “People who don’t have access to male privilege or white privilege don’t get to feel safe the way I do, unless we actively challenge oppression, both in this festival and our wider communities,” says Rasenick. This year, the organizers leaned into their commitment to remove barriers by adding discounted tickets for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) as well as a Financial Assistance Pass.
This exploration begins long before a stage appears among the boreal rainforest’s trees, ringed with mandala of pavilions and yurts, before Beloved devotees convene for four days of yoga and other spirit-centering practices. It continues, Beloved organizers and its artists hope, long after the festival is over. “Audiences can continue to follow our work beyond the festival,” Asili suggests. “It’s not just enjoying the music and calling it a day. Our music is an invitation to support us in our struggles. I work a lot on issues of mass incarceration and on support for Puerto Rico. Go to our sites, see if you can get involved.”
The soul searching and calls to action allow Beloved to invoke a truly meaningful experience for everyone open to the celebration. “We don’t shame indulgence in just partying, and we know that our capacity to celebrate is only as great as our capacity to grieve. The deeper and more inclusive celebrating we practice at Beloved produces a much more durable joy,” Rasenick explains. “No matter how grim the reality of the world is, music and celebration are important. That’s why Beloved matters.”