Music: Culture span

Music: Culture span

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Freddy Clarke and Wobbly World showcase diversity through music

In addition to performing around the Bay Area, Freddy Clarke and Wobbly World were recently invited to play at a TED event at IBM. Photo by Stephen Somerstein.

By Lily O’Brien

Guitarist Freddy Clarke has just declared Word War One in his new song “Hard Peace,” written in reaction to the recent (tumultuous) election. It’s a song about hope, unity and “getting rid of all the hate in the world” through “a quantum shift from the way things were.”

But this is not new for Clarke. He’s been embracing cultural diversity and spreading the message of collaboration with his multi-ethnic band, Wobbly World, for more than 20 years.

Wobbly World—made up of Clarke on guitar and a rotating lineup of musicians from places that include Cuba, Lebanon, Morocco, Bolivia, Vietnam and the Ivory Coast—combines instruments and languages from around the globe. The music, Clarke says, blends original compositions with classical and traditional songs—done in the band’s own “twisted, very mixed up way.”

“You’re going to have some interesting sounds come out of that,” Clarke says enthusiastically. He adds that digitized soundbytes—ranging from Stravinsky to the Bulgarian Girls’ Choir to Chinese opera—are thrown in, just to shake things up. When asked how people react to it, Clarke replies with a laugh, “They dance!”

Clarke grew up in Fresno and began studying classical guitar at age 11. After getting his Bachelor of Music degree at San Francisco State University in the early ’70s, he started a “DEVO-like” band called Mannequin that sang silly songs about the tech revolution. He was invited one day to perform at a concert with an Iranian musician and friend. “It was the beginning of my vision to go ethnic and do something totally new and fresh,” Clarke says. “I just thought it would be very American because America is that—a melting pot, and it is getting more and more important to showcase the diversity.”

Clarke got the name “Wobbly World” from Al Gore’s book Earth in the Balance, which says that climate change is measured by the amount of wobble on the earth’s axis. With the world wobbling a lot these days, Clarke says that he would love to take his band on the road internationally, be an ambassador for this country and “shine the light on democracy and ethnic diversity and collaboration and how we work together through the different religions.”

Wobbly World’s bio sums up this vision: “The unity of music speaks to the unity of life. The freedom to enjoy music without borders leads us to enjoy people without borders.”

Freddy Clarke and Wobbly World perform on Saturday, November 26 at the Sausalito Seahorse, 305 Harbor Drive, Sausalito; 8pm; sausalitoseahorse.com; wobblyworldmusic.com.

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