eKC feature
Sept. 5, 2008


Goin’ to Terra Madre:
Heartland style
by Vicki Walker

Nestled in between the foothills of the Alps and the river Po, Turin or Torino (in Italian) will be home to people from all over the world who come to share their food culture with others for a week in at Terra Madre (www.terramadre.info). Included at the festival, held Oct. 23-27, will be an American band from Kansas City.

Checkered Past (www.checkeredpastmusic.com), a local band formed in 2005 that has a combined musical age over 120 years, will step into that world as representatives of the Heartland. Their official name for the trip is Terra Madre: Heartland Voice.

“Checkered Past is the only American band performing at the festival,” said guitarist and vocalist Lynn Snyder. Originally the festival was to include an international Folk Music Festival, which is what originally drew Snyder to the event. That and her love of food and her concern over the state of food and those who grow it worldwide.

Terra Madre fit the band’s values and ethics, particularly their commitment to the Slow Food movement. Band members view themselves as gastronomists (lovers of good food) and environmentalists, and the Terra Madre gig was something they couldn’t pass up.

The Slow Food Movement began nearly 20 years in 1989 in Italy, founded by Carlo Petrini, when he and others began to fear the loss of cultural identity with regards to local food. The rise of fast food in Italy and other European countries was pushing people toward an American way of eating, which, they believed, was not only unhealthy but also unsustainable. The movement has expanded to over 83,000 members in 122 countries. In the United States, membership has been estimated at approximately 16,000.

According to the Slow Food website (www.slowfood.com), the organization’s philosophy is based on a belief that “everyone has a fundamental right to pleasure and consequently the responsibility to protect the heritage of food, tradition and culture that make this pleasure possible.”

A bi-annual conference, Terra Madre reflects Slow Food through innovative advances and ideas on local food production, sustainability and the economics of globalization on food and culture. Food producers, distributors, cooks, academics, artists and those who believe in and work for responsible and sustainable food production will be at the gathering.

Over 6,500 people attended the last conference and at this year’s Terre Madre Checkered Past will be bringing their unique blend of folk music and environmentalism with them.

All members are steeped in the idea that “We are the change we seek.” At every concert, they give away a book that touches on some element of the environment, economics or the issue of sustainability. Their charge? Read it and pass it on.

With their trip looming, finding a way to pay for it has become all-consuming. Slow Food will be footing the bill once feet are on the ground and the local arts organization CrossCurrents will be assisting in some basic needs. However, money for airfare, along with carbon offsets for that flight, still must be raised.

“We think it will cost about $100 per person to offset those carbon emissions,” Snyder said. But being a band whose tag line is: “We play for change,” they live what they sing.

Band members have planned a Green Fest for Sat., Sept. 6, at Dave Lizor’s Jamming Place, 6304 E 58th St., west of I-435 and Blue Parkway. Beginning at 2 pm, people can wander through the maze of vendors, farmers, cooking classes and environmental displays. Musicians and speakers will take the stage throughout the day and into the evening. Jam sessions will end the evening. A suggested donation of $10 will help offset the band’s expenses.

Other Checkered Past members include: Kerry Stanley, guitarist and stand up bass player, and theater construction manager for AMC by day; Martha Haehl plays guitar, mandolin, fiddle, bass, flute, dobro and just recently added the ukulele; she teaches math at Penn Valley Community College, KC Compton, vocalist, is the editor-in-chief for three publications at Ogden Publications; and Bill Langsdorf, the newest member of the band, plays guitar and any percussion instrument he can get his hands on. He is a recovering engineer and is a certified luthier during his “off” time.

Vicki Walker can be contacted at vwatsonwalker@gmail.com.


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