The International Funfest, happening this weekend at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park, should have you at hello: Have you ever heard a more tempting phrase than International Funfest? Who wouldn't want to go to something called International Funfest? What in samhill would one find at an International Funfest -- St. Pauli girls? Jamaican steel drums filled to the brim with the finest of rum slosh? South American farmboys proffering cocaine-packed Mason jars? Welsh soccer fans, imported en masse, hoarsely singing their crooked-toothed mouths off, stuffed to the gills with rarebit and stout?
Slow down, Sparky. Keep in mind that, in this case, the free fun to be had on Saturday and Sunday, July 12 and 13, from noon to 4 p.m. in the museum's MacDermott Grand Hall (that's the one with the Spirit of St. Louis replica hanging from the ceiling), falls squarely into PG-rated territory. Which is not to say that a good time won't be had by all. (Well, maybe if you are an alkie/blow fiend who rages for football like Nick Hornby and gropes St. Pauli girls like a Sigma Chi pledge at his first Oktoberfest -- then yes, maybe this isn't for you.) It's just that the point of International Funfest is to present myriad kinds of world music and dance in a kid-friendly entertainment package.
Towards that end, the bill at this third annual Funfest includes: traditional Japanese music and dance as performed by the Niji Choral Group and the Nami Folk Dancing Group; Brazilian beats by Samba Bom Trio; ancestral Celtic music courtesy of Mitzi MacDonald and Keltic Reign; African drumming and dancing by Diadie Bathily (an instructor at the Center of Contemporary Arts); the Mideastern drumming and dancing of the Desert Moon belly dance troupe; klezmer tunes by local group Stars of David; the mysterious talents of stage-magician Terry Richison; and face-painting and balloon animals.
While the kiddies get their ya-yas stomping their little Buster Browns as best they can, adults might actually learn a thing or two they didn't know before. Example: while everybody's heard of bossa nova and samba, the Samba Bom Trio will also be performing such lesser-known varieties of Brazilian music as chorinhos, forro, afoches and batucadas. More importantly, is it possible to hear Celtic music in this day and age and not think of Enya?
To round out the whole learning-is-fun! notion of the affair, some of the performers themselves will be embarking on something new when they take to the Funfest stage. The Stars of David, for one, have never played to a kid-heavy crowd before. "We get booked more often for the retirement audiences," says Elsie Parker, clarinetist and singer for the two-year-old band (who, coincidentally, just finished up a stint in the pit orchestra of the Muny's production of Fiddler on the Roof). "But I think we'll be able to get the children to sing and dance along pretty easily to our music. Klezmer is very similar to swing music, and no matter what the age, everybody loves swing music."