Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Wobeon Fest presents global music, promotes international peace

Staff Writer
Austin 360

Last year, Wobeon world music festival launched as a two day event with an ambitious program featuring top notch global talent at the Mexican American Cultural Center. While the music and the vibe were fantastic, the fest had many missteps in its first year and organizer Jakes Srinivasan, a money manager by trade, took a big financial hit. Nonetheless, he was struck by the crowd response. “When I was watching some of the performances last year you won’t believe how many people came up to me and said something like, ‘You’ve changed my life,’” he said over coffee at Dominican Joe’s recently.

“I’m like, ‘I’m not Deepak Chopra. I’m just a music fan, an organizer and a promoter,’” he said.

A native of Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India, Srinivasan’s career in finance has taken him around the world, exposing him to the sounds and flavors of different cultures. These experiences had a profound impact on him. Observing the audience during year one of Wobeon Fest he was struck by the mind opening power of global music, the transformative effect of masses of people from different cultures coming together to move their bodies to each other’s sounds. Creating a space for this cultural exchange became his mission, but he acknowledges that it will take time to fully realize his vision for the festival.

“This is a big journey,” he said. “This is not going to be a one year, two year, three year (process).”

Going into year two, Wobeon will feature roughly the same number of artists as last year, but the festival has scaled back to a tighter single day format. The event has also partnered with the Amala Foundation, a local nonprofit focused on youth empowerment that serves refugee communities. Twenty percent of all proceeds from the festival, including merchandise and beverage sales, will go to the foundation.

Each year Amala Foundation hosts global youth peace summits and this year’s Wobeon Fest scheduled for Sept. 20 is timed to coincide with the United Nations’ International Day of Peace on Sept. 21. “Global music lends itself to issues of global significance,” Srinivasan says. Structuring the music around the theme of international peace gives the event a powerful focus that he believes will resonate with both the artists and the audience.

For the lineup, Srinivasan has pulled together a diverse group of international artists including reggae musician Taj Weekes from St. Lucia, Brazilian percussionist and composer Dende and Jordanian singer Farah Siraj who mixes Arabic music with jazz and flamenco. A solid cast of Austin’s own international musicians including Middle Eastern band Atash and Brazilian percussion outfit Maracatu will also perform.

Srinivasan’s aim is twofold, to showcase sounds from around the world, but also to reflect the growing internationalism that is part of the changing face of Austin. “We think that’s it’s bigger than (music), that is there’s an economic angle, there’s a socio-political angle of being more international,” he says. “If we want to succeed and become a global player, Austin as a city, we really need to (embrace) this.” ___

Wobeon Fest takes place Saturday, Sept. 20 at Ironwood Hall. 4 p.m. 507 E. 7th St. $30-$35. More info.