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Eyes On You: Gypsy, klezmer, and jazz are only part of the sound of Les Yeux Noirs.

Going Global

Fairfax hosts an ambitious world music fest

By Greg Cahill

Led by a pair of virtuosic, classically trained violin-playing brothers, Eric and Olivier Slabiak, the Paris-based sextet Les Yeux Noirs could be the perfect poster children for the world-music explosion that has swept Europe over the past decade and found a receptive ear among U.S. audiences. Their infectious songs are an amalgamation of feel-good modern pop, electronica, and Eastern European styles, especially gypsy music and Jewish klezmer with a splash of Manouche (or French gypsy) jazz thrown in for good measure. The band's name--which means the Black Eyes--is derived from the Russian gypsy tune made famous in the 1930s by legendary jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

They are, the Bangkok Post once opined, "the boy band of a lost era."

Ya gotta love that quote, and ya gotta love a band that has a quote from the Bangkok Post in its press kit.

Hot on the heels of a widely acclaimed new album, Balamouk (loosely translated as "House of the Insane" in Romanian), distributed by the World Village/Harmonia Mundi label, Les Yeux Noirs make their North Bay debut when the band co-headlines an impressive lineup Sept. 21 and 22 at the Fairfax World Music Festival. The festival is the brainchild of a local booking agent who has turned the tiny 19 Broadway nightclub in Fairfax into a mecca for local reggae and world music fans. The ambitious world music fest will feature 43 acts performing throughout the downtown area on four stages, and will offer international food and crafts booths.

In addition to Les Yeux Noirs (who perform both days and alone are worth the price of admission), the lineup of featured artists includes reggae greats the Abyssinians, electronica heavyweight Karsh Kale, DJ Cheb I Sebbah, ska legend Ken Booth, Moroccan lutist Hassan Hakmoun (who has recorded with Peter Gabriel and others), groove merchants Sound Tribe Sector 9, the jam band Vinyl, ex-Meters drummer and New Orleans funk pioneer Zigaboo Modeliste, and many others.

The event, coinciding with the full moon and autumn equinox, is a benefit for the Rex Foundation (a charity founded by the Grateful Dead) and the Fairfax Beautification Project.

The Fairfax World Music Festival runs Saturday, Sept. 21 and Sunday, Sept. 22, from 10am to 8pm. The event will be staged in Fairfax Park in downtown Fairfax. Tickets are $35 each day; a two-day pass is available for $60. For more information, visit www.fairfaxworldmusicfestival.org.

Nightclubbing

Time will tell if Petalumans are ready to embrace a jazz club that forbids T-shirts, baseball caps, or sweatshirts (hey, that would eighty-six guitar god Carlos Santana on his more casual days), but that hasn't swayed Zebulon's Lounge from limiting its clientele to finer fashion.

This stylish new venue, which offers mostly local jazz acts set in an artsy backdrop reminiscent of an intimate cosmopolitan New York nightspot, is offering a Tuesday-night special. No, those trendy sake-based cocktails aren't half priced, but you can get more bang for your bucks every other Tuesday, from 7pm to 9pm, when the Livewire Literary Salon gets the evening's entertainment rolling with readings by top North Bay authors. The next salon on Oct. 1 features Guerneville writer Dan Coshnear, winner of the 2000 Willa Cather Fiction Prize, headlining a program dubbed "Blurred Edges: Where Truth and Fiction Meet."

Also on tap that night, Larkspur psychologist-turned-novelist Suzanne Gold, award-winning author of Daddy's Girls (and a singer who once performed the National Anthem at a San Francisco Giants game). Afterward, music will be provided by the Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee Trio, led by the London-born bassist who has drawn acclaim for his new CD, Previous Misconceptions.

Zebulon's Lounge is located at 21 Fourth St. in Petaluma (behind the Mystic Theatre). For information, call 707.769.7948. Uh, suitable attire is required.

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From the September 19-25, 2002 issue of the North Bay Bohemian.

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