The 61st East Lansing Art Festival is this weekend, with dozens of artists displaying their wares downtown.

There also will be live music both Saturday and Sunday. WKAR on-air personalities will be on hand to introduce the performers.

One of the featured acts is Whorled.

Thom Jayne’s musical influences go back to his time in Ghana, where he served in the Peace Corps in the 1980s. His seven-piece Lansing-based band The Nomads played a mix of African, Celtic and Latin music in the early 2000s.

Jayne says his new band, a trio, is stripped down by comparison.

“There’s no soloing going on,” Jayne explained. “It’s rather that all three instruments kind of have their own voicing going on at the same time and just sort of meld together in some way. So, we’re trying to get away from just the kind of solo thing and then these people are backing up the soloist.”

The band’s name, Whorled, is something of a play on words, linking world music with the way a fingerprint is whorled in a spiral pattern.

Jayne plays guitar and didgeridoo. For this act, he’s teamed up with mother and daughter bandmates. Keala Venema plays fiddle, tin whistle and an Irish drum, while her mother Mariko Venema plays accordion.

“Keala sometimes will play her bodhrán, the percussion instrument, and then loop it so that it can continue playing after she puts that down and picks up her fiddle,” Jayne said. “We actually can have more than three instruments going at one time.”

Whorled’s music has a Celtic feel, but there’s also a hint of Japanese influence. Keala Venema says she and her mom had previously played in a couple of Irish bands.

“I think it all revolves around Irish music,” Venema said. “Which is so funny because I didn’t grow up with it, she didn’t grow up with it, but I think it’s just how social it is and it’s so fun.”

The music is playful at times, like in a version of the theme song from the TV cartoon show The Flintstones. According to Jayne, “it is definitely a sparky, upbeat kind of music for the most part, and some of that, I think, is also just due to the Celtic music influence.”

While mostly an instrumental combo, Keala does some singing, too, notably on the standard Summertime.

“We started jamming out on it, and somebody, I think probably Thom, just kind of riffed on Hall of the Mountain King,” said Venema. “From there, we just were like ‘how can we incorporate this and layer it up and make the transition so it’s so seamless that you don’t even realize that you’re going into Hall of the Mountain King?’”

Whorled is making some special plans for their East Lansing Art Festival show. Jayne is hoping to bring a touch of his past work with the Nomads to a song both groups have played. Rich Illman, who played trumpet in Thom Jayne and the Nomads, will sit in with Whorled.

Hours for the East Lansing Art Festival are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. on Sunday. Whorled will perform at 4:15 p.m. Saturday on the music stage at the Ann Street Plaza downtown.

East Lansing has another fair this weekend as well. The Annual Michigan State University Arts and Crafts Show will take place at the MSU Union.

The East Lansing Art Festival is a financial supporter of WKAR.





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