ACTA Welcomes 23 Master Artist-Apprentice Teams to its Apprenticeship Program
Since 1999, the Alliance for California Traditional Arts’ (ACTA) Apprenticeship Program has supported California’s diverse living culture heritage with 185 contracts to outstanding folk and traditional artists. Now entering its tenth cycle, ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program encourages the continuation of the state’s living cultural heritage by contracting exemplary master artists to offer intensive training to qualified apprentices. Each contract will support a period of concentrated learning between six to twelve months for individuals who demonstrate commitment to and talent for a specific artistic tradition. Contracts of $3,000 are made with California-based master artists to cover master artist’s fees, supplies and travel. Participants work closely with ACTA staff to develop and document the apprenticeships, culminating in opportunities to publicly share results of the apprenticeship.
The 2010 Apprenticeship Program cohort of 46 artists reflects California’s breadth of cultural diversity and intergenerational learning, ranging from octogenarian master artists to teenage apprentices, spanning from Shasta to San Diego Counties. Thriving traditions supported through these apprenticeships reflect indigenous California cultural practices including Mono and Ohlone basketry, California saddlemaking, and art forms which have taken root in the United States hailing from regions including Cuba, Tibet, Republic of Congo, the Balkans, Cambodia, Japan, Armenia and Iran, India and China.
ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program is supported by the Columbia Foundation; the Walter & Elise Haas Fund; the James Irvine Foundation; the Metabolic Studio, a direct charitable activity of the Annenberg Foundation led by artist Lauren Bon; and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support provided by the California Arts Council, the California Community Foundation, and the San Francisco Foundation.
The 23 statewide artist teams participating in the 2010 Apprenticeship Program are as follows (master artist listed first):
Master artist Jorge Alabê (Oakland) and Anìbal Mejia (San Francisco) will conduct an apprenticeship in Candomblé song and dance, from the Nigerian and Beninois religious traditions sustained by West African descendants in Brazil which has survived since colonial times due to its strict forms of drumming, song, dance, ritual and cuisine. Their apprenticeship focuses on the songs and dances used to perform rituals and liturgy for O presente às aguas, or “the offering to waters,” a public ritual honoring life-giving water orixás (or deities). Mejia will also work with Alabê in learning, documenting and translating the Yoruba-based Candomblé songs, as well as deepening his skill in dance and song for each orixá.
Master artist Mani Bolouri (Los Angeles) and Partow Bayat (Tarzana) will conduct an apprenticeship in Persian and Armenian folk gheychak, a bowed, fretless instrument with four metal strings. Bayat will better apprehend Bolouri’s musical style. The apprenticeship will focus on Armenian and some Persian musical repertoire, understanding the gheychak’s traditional rhythms, modes and rules of improvisation and composition, and to enhance Bayat’s ability to play melodies directly by ear as well as play professionally in musical ensembles.
Master artist Carlinhos Pandeiro de Ouro, (Los Angeles) and Simon Carroll (Northridge) will conduct an apprenticeship in Brazilian pandeiro, a small framed drum with jingles played in many Brazilian musical forms including samba, choro, coco and capoeira music. Unlike a tambourine, a pandeiro drum head can be tuned, with cupped metal jingles, and is often played with swift, complex rhythms. Pandeiro de Ouro will teach Carroll technical skills and numerous pandeiro rhythms and history and songs, in addition to pandeiro juggling, an art form developed by Pandeiro de Ouro during his career spanning over fifty years.
Master artist Pierre Sandor Diabankouezi (Berkeley) and Muisi-Kongo Malonga (Oakland) will conduct an apprenticeship in Mikwe tableau painting developed in the Republic of Congo. Originally applied as decorative art directly on home walls, Mikwe painting captures important aspects of daily village life through depictions including dancing, drumming, hunting, fishing and harvesting. Diabankouezi comes from a family lineage of painters, and passes it on to Malonga, who is the daughter of Diabankouezi’s cousin and late master artist Malonga Casquelourd. The apprenticeship will emphasize nbongi, a traditional philosophy exemplified and transmitted by Mikwe painting which emphasizes community gathering and learning.
Master artist Al Gould (Clovis) and Shon Walker (Sanger) will conduct an apprenticeship in California-style saddlemaking and leather artistry. Gould and Walker both have extensive experience in cowboy work with horses and cattle, and horse and mule packing and mountain guiding. Walker—a master rawhider—will apprentice with Gould to construct a functional western style saddle with traditional techniques and designs including floral, basket and geometric patterns. Gould will guide Walker through Gould’s saddlemaking production sequence and develop Walker’s proficiency in saddle and stamping tools, resulting in Walker’s first self-made California stock saddle.
Master artist Ravi Gutala (San Jose) and Saurabh Davala (Cupertino) will conduct an apprenticeship in Hindustani tabla, traditional percussion which has been used for over 500 years to accompany North Indian classical instrumentation and vocal and dance performances, in addition to being a solo instrument. The apprenticeship will develop Davala’s technical proficiency in playing speed and clarity, skills to accompany vocals and instrumentation, and understanding of taals (rhythmic cycles), and improvisational ability, all within the Lucknow gharana (or school) of tabla-playing.
Master artist Ramya Harishankar (Irvine) and Sumona Vohra (Santa Ana) will conduct an apprenticeship in South Indian classical bharata natyam dance. The apprenticeship will focus on individualized training to learn various pieces within the classical repertoire.
Master artist PJ Hirabayashi (San Jose) and Franco Imperial (San Jose) will conduct an apprenticeship in Japanese taiko drumming and kumidaiko ensemble drumming. As a founding member of San Jose Taiko since 1986, Hirabayashi will guide Imperial in improving his taiko techniques, form and energy, while also developing a succession plan to pave Imperial’s way in taking leadership at San Jose Taiko. In addition to their lessons, Imperial will document and deepen his understanding of the playing style developed by Hirabayashi and co-founder and spouse Roy Hirabayashi. PJ Hirabayashi and Imperial will work together during the apprenticeship to articulate and codify San Jose Taiko’s distinctive style to ensure its legacy and articulate its aesthetic.
Master artist Michelle Martin (Oakland) and Mudzima Brown (Oakland) will conduct an apprenticeship in Yoruba Lucumí beading, focusing on the creation of religious and ceremonial items dedicated to orishas (or deities), including ileke necklaces worn by practitioners, the ileke-masso worn by initiates into the priesthood, and the iruke fly whisk, involving ritual preparation with herbs and prayers. Martin will guide Brown on the selection of beads, determining correct bead color, size and measurement respective to the proscribed parameters of each item, and in beading design.
Master artist Garry McClintock (Descanso) and Ronald Titus (Campo) will conduct an apprenticeship in traditional California-style saddlemaking, drawing from California vaquero horse and mule saddle customs which have continued for over 200 years. McClintock will teach Titus—himself a master leather braider and leatherworker—how to construct a saddle and its related skills and techniques. Areas of focus include rigging, seat work, fenders and stirrup leathers, and an introduction to wooden saddle tree construction. The apprenticeship will occur at McClintock Saddleworks in rural Descanso.
Master artist Gladys McKinney (Dunlap) and McKinney’s sister Florence L. Dick (Dunlap) will conduct an apprenticeship in Native Californian Mono sumai basketry. Large sumai baskets are made from redbud using a twinning technique, and are made for gathering redbud sticks, sedge, sourberry sticks and chaparral, as well as for fishing and gathering and drying plant food. McKinney will guide Dick in traditional gathering techniques at ancestral gathering sites, preparing the material, and weaving a basket. Dick will learn to weave traditional ancestral designs into the basket.
Master artist Gankyo Nakamura (Los Angeles) and Lea Sachiko Yamaguchi (Los Angeles) will conduct an apprenticeship in Japanese Kabuki dance. Yamaguchi will undergo strict training into the secrets of the Kabuki dance Renjishi, or Lion Dance, a piece with origins in Noh and Kyogen theatre which demands distinct techniques, and cross-training in male and female character form distinctive of the Kansai lineage from which Nakamura comes. Nakamura will guide Yamaguchi through the movements, history and legends that surround this piece, along with training her body to endure over seventy pounds of costume and wig.
Master artist Sambath Pich (Long Beach) and his son Samnang Pich (Long Beach) will conduct an apprenticeship in roneat ek, or the Khmer wooden/bamboo xylophone. The roneat ek is a leading instrument, harmonizing classical Khmer music ensembles as a whole, played in both Pin Peat and Mahori musical styles. Sambath Pich will guide his son in mastering Mahori music, which traditionally is used for Khmer folk dances, royal banquets and other events. Samnang Pich will deepen the Mahori repertory, a repertory which contains thousands of songs.
Master artist Juan Carlos Blanco Riera (La Jolla) and Menelike Turner (San Diego) will conduct an apprenticeship in Afro-Cuban batá drumming. Blanco Riera will work with Turner in developing more nuance and refinement in the techniques of each of the three drums which constitute batá, and guide Turner in learning songs and rhythms for each of the orishas, ultimately grooming Turner to become a lead percussionist for Blanco Riera’s company Omo Aché Afro-Cuban Music and Dance Company.
Master artist Shubhangi Sakhalkar (San Jose) and Seema Gupta (Cupertino) will conduct an apprenticeship in North Indian classical Hindustani vocals. The apprenticeship will emphasize Gupta’s immersion into nuances, interpretation and improvisation of various raags (or melodic modes). Sakhalkar will focus on polishing Gupta’s vocal skills and technique, and encourage Gupta’s formulation of her own style and personal interpretation within the tradition.
Master artist Lakshmi Shankar (Simi Valley) and Ashwin Rode (Goleta) will conduct an apprenticeship in North Indian classical Hindustani vocals. The apprenticeship will build up Rode’s ability to perform raags (or melodic modes) in the khayal style at concert level, emphasizing improvisational elements, and clarity in execution of musical ornamentation. Shankar will teach Rode rare compositions composed by the celebrated Ravi Shankar, compositions which were personally taught to Lakshmi Shankar by Ravi Shankar during her extensive career.
Master artist Devendra Sharma (Fresno) and Aanand Krishnan (Mountain View) will conduct an apprenticeship in nautanki, a folk musical theatre form which was the most popular form of entertainment in North India. The apprenticeship will cover musical airs, singing styles, dance movements and use of the body in nautanki, covering various meters and compositions in the tradition. Sharma will also train Krishnan in several gharanas (or schools), including haathrasi, kanpuri and swami-khera.
Master artist Ang Tsherin Sherpa (Oakland) and Paul Ferguson (Oakland) will conduct an apprenticeship in Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist thangka paintings. As much a meditation in the act of painting as it is as an object used to focus meditation, thangkas are created by an underlying grid system, frequently portraying deities, boddhisatvas and other Tibetan Buddhist iconography. Sherpa will lead Ferguson towards painting several manifestations of the deity Tara. Ferguson will dive deeper into the intricacies of detail work and inner symbolism in the paintings. Each painting teaches various aspects of mental energy for Ferguson and the painting’s viewer.
Master artist Rumen Sali Shopov (Berkeley) and Benji Bloom Rifati (Graton) will conduct an apprenticeship in Balkan Romani instrumental music, improvisation and band leading. Romani musical style is often characterized as having specific makams (or melodic modes), complex asymmetrical dance rhythms, intricate ornamentation and improvisation. Rifati will learn songs from the extensive Balkan Romani repertoire, in addition to Romani songs of Turkish, Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek and Kosovar origins. Shopov will focus on Rifati’s development of ornamentation and improvisation styles in Romani trumpet, and how to become a more effective band leader.
Master artist Gaylerd Thissell (Cottonwood) and his grandson Lance Zazueta (Red Bluff) will conduct an apprenticeship in Western saddlemaking. Approaching his eighties, Thissell’s saddles are highly regarded, and Thissell will work with Zazueta in the basics of building a saddle from start to finish. The apprenticeship will involve Zazueta’s practice in using saddle-making tools, cutting leather, and customizing saddles with designs and stamps. The apprenticeship will also include instruction on finishing the saddle with edging and oiling.
Master artist Jayashree Varadarajan (Sunnyvale) and Sruthi Ramaswami (Sunnyvale) will conduct an apprenticeship in South Indian classical Carnatic vocal music. Ramaswami will achieve competence in improvisation and its underpinning theories in the tradition, while learning from Varadarajan the melodies, structural compositions and associated sentiments within a tradition which has existed for approximately 2,500 years. The apprenticeship will focus on swara kalpana, raga alapana, neraval and the basics of tana.
Master artist Linda Yamane (Seaside) and Carol Bachmann (Stockton) will conduct an apprenticeship in Native Californian Ohlone feathered basketry. Ohlone baskets are made with materials including willow shoots, sedge and bulrush rhizomes. The feathered basket involves a labor-intensive three-rod coiling technique in addition to incorporating fine mallard duck feathers in alternating stitches throughout the outer basket wall, in addition to adorning the basket with quail topknot feathers and abalone shell dangles.
Master artist Xiaofeng Zhang and Eric T. Jung will conduct an apprenticeship in classical Chinese erhu, a two-stringed bowed instrument. The apprenticeship focuses on improving Jung’s technique in bowing and fingering, and will introduce Jung to several, technically advanced solo erhu compositions. Zhang will train Jung with goals of being able to pass China’s Beijing Conservatory’s level exams, as well as being competitive in other local and regional competitions.