Tucson Meet Yourself showcases culture

by MICHEAL ROMERO

The Tucson Meet Yourself festival will return this month for its 42nd incarnation, from Oct. 9-11 in Downtown Tucson.

The three-day event will run from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday.

The festival celebrates the traditional and contemporary folk life of the southwest region of the United States and the Northern most areas of Mexico in art, dance, music and food.

The popular event is one many Tucsonans look forward to each year. Most  have taken to affectionatly calling it “Tucson Eat Yourself” because of the large spread of globally inspired dishes.

According to the Tucson Meet Yourself website, this year will introduce artistic and culinary fellowships dedicated to funding a larger production by artists and chefs.

One recipient of the Artistic Fellowship, Michael Olson, aka Doc Twang, will make his first festival appearance as the band leader of The Key Ingredients of African Soul, a collection of artists from Zimbabwe, Mexico and the U.S.

Olson, 67, saw the grant as an opportunity to present African music in a setting that doesn’t showcase an artist, but allows a culture to be explored through its art.

“What made me so happy and want to participate in this is the vision that goes into this is more than just being local entertainers,” Olson said.

Olson, a Tucson native, found himself drawn to African music after a colleague gave him cassette tapes of Afro-pop music played on local Tucson radio station KXCI.

“What blew my mind was how the guitars worked together in African music,” Olson said.

He started to perform in the late ‘80s and now has more than 25 years of experience as a full-time artist.

Another full-time artist and recipient of the fellowship is singer Yasel Patterson, who will make his third appearance at the festival.

He’s accompanied by his longtime friend and pianist Liuduik Luis Cutiño Cruz, who will act as the musical director for the show.

Patterson said he hopes to bring a proper Cuban concert to the festival.

“I haven’t seen anything like a real Cuban show,” Patterson said.

The Cuban native got his musical start singing bass for a vocal quartet during his time at the University of Art in Cuba.

He’s been in the U.S. since 2008, after he sought asylum in the states after a trip to Mexico that left him unable to return to his home country.

Due to the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966, he was able to apply for a green card after a one-year residency. Patterson became a citizen five years later.

The festival will also include an exhibit curated by Program Director Maribel Alvarez on “100 Years of Anthropology in the Community.”

The presentation will detail advances made in the field by the University of Arizona Anthropology Department and contributions made by members of the Tucson area.

The fall gathering continues to bring people together to explore various ethnic customs that are practiced by the city’s populace, but Alvarez stressed that it wasn’t always this easy to access the cultures that made Tucson.

“Despite the proximity to Mexico and the layers of history both native and of the various migrations west, Tucson really didn’t ‘know itself’ in the cultural sense,” she said. “There was no easy way to share beauty, tradition and honor across distinct cultural enclaves.”

This year, the festival will feature 60 food vendors, 20 food demonstrators, 100 folk artists and 95 heritage arts performing groups with 300 performers on three stages, under the care of 30 program staff and 500 volunteers.

As always, the showcase of culture, art and music is a joint effort of dedicated community members.

For more information on the festival, visit Tucsonmeetyourself.org or contact info@tucsonmeetyourself.org. For volunteer opportunities call 621-4046 or email tmyvolunteer@gmail.com.

Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press A mother and child experincing a different culture’s arts and crafts project at the 2014 Tucson Meet Yourself.

Larry Gaurano/Aztec Press
A mother and child experincing a different culture’s arts and crafts project at the 2014 Tucson Meet Yourself.

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