Bobby McFerrin. Credit: Petra Hajska

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in The Scene, Berkeleyside’s new arts and culture newsletter.

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Ever dream of singing with a winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award?

For the past two years Bobby McFerrin has been leading Circlesongs at Freight & Salvage intermittently on Monday afternoons in a hybrid gathering that’s part performance, part open mic, and all play. 

Seated on stage flanked by his recently formed a cappella quintet Motion with David Worm, Bryan Dyer, Tammi Brown, and Berkeley’s Destani Wolf, the maestro of spontaneous invention maintains a Buddha-like calm (if Siddhartha Gautama was given to making side-of-the-mouth wise cracks in an Oxford accent while while sipping from an ever-present mug of tea). 

At some point in the proceedings, participants are invited to join the fray with vocals or an instrument to shape the sonic flow emanating from McFerrin and Motion. 

In frail health as he contends with Parkinson’s, McFerrin has experienced a creative rebirth at the venue after a period of depression partly brought on by struggles with his voice. His longtime manager, producer and creative co-conspirator Linda Goldstein encouraged him to take on a regular situation, assuring him that like late-career Billie Holiday he retained the deepest musicality. 

“I might not be as accurate intonation wise,” McFerrin said. “But I still have the creative chops.”

Next Circlesong event: Monday, May 22. 12 p.m. $35. Motion’s evening concerts: Thursday-Friday, June 1-2. 8 p.m. $35.

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Andrew Gilbert

Freelancer Andrew Gilbert writes a weekly music column for Berkeleyside. Andy, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, covers a wide range of musical cultures, from Brazil and Mali to India and Ireland....