MANCHESTER>>For the love of making music, growing food and generating art, the Moonshine Music Festival will return to Earth Sky Time Farm on Aug. 13.
The full-day, rain-or-shine community celebration will bring in music ranging from Ethiopian jazz and folk to West African melodies and blues. Folks can also take part in a collaborative art piece, farm tours and a harvest farm stand.
Avi Salloway is the curator of the festival as well as the band leader of Billy Wylder. He met Oliver Levis around Boston, Mass. and got the idea to host a concert on his farm. The Moonshine Music Series came about in 2012 with Salloway and common friends who wished to connect the land to food sources. The series puts out four to six shows per year in eastern Massachusetts, but last year was the first festival held in Manchester.
Headliners include Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars, Billy Wylder and Woven. Salloway said bands are chosen based on the message of their music.
The Refugee All Stars, for example, spread the message of peace, hope, faith and joy after facing the hardships of West African refugee camps in the 1990's.
"We were playing for the people in the camp and we became very much popular," All Stars founder Ruben Koroma said. "I was a drummer for many years before I left Sierra Leone. I was playing drums, that's what I was doing. When I formed this band, I needed another drummer to communicate with the audience."
The band has a rotating membership, Koroma said. Their first album, "Living Like a Refugee" was released in 2006 after being recorded in the ghettos of Freetown after the war came to an end. At the same time, American filmmakers Zach Niles and Banker White followed the band for three years and ultimately released "Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars," which expanded their following. Eventually, the All Stars contributed music to the "Blood Diamond" film soundtrack, participated in the U2 tribute album, appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey Show," and even opening up for Aerosmith with more than 10,000 in the audience at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut, according to the band's website.
"It's the appreciation of the people. The way people respond to our music, I love it," Koroma said. "When you create something unique, it tends to be loved by people. People love what you're creating. The U.S. has our biggest fanbase here."
Their second album "Rise and Shine" was recorded in New Orleans, La. with Los Lobos producer Steve Berlin. It earned them the 2010 Album of the Year on the prestigious World Music Charts in Europe. They continued to tour and opened for big name bands such as Dispatch and worked with Amy Winehouse and Sharon Jones while remaining true to their optimistic message of overcoming.
"When we were in the refugee camp we talked about peace and peace came in our country. And also, when we are touring and talking to people, we really preach peace and we talk about peace to the people and I think most people appreciate that and some come to others and say 'you inspired me thank you for coming' and it means our music is making an impact in changing people's lives," Koroma said.
He explained that music is a form of media that can be used to deliver a message and a way to bring change - "As a musician, I say this, music could help to bring positive changes in the world if all the musicians are writing lyrics that are really positive."
"Radio Salone" was released in 2012 as their third album, and the most recent, "Libation" was recorded in Plainfield.
Earth Sky Time Farm hosted three other large-scale events last year in addition to Moonshine. It's capacity is about 200 people. A barn has recently been constructed, which allowed for more community engagement, Levis said. The woodfired bakery on the farm will produce pizza for the festival and the liquor license from Levis' parent's Wilburton Inn will permit alcohol consumption during the event.
"This is the stage that we kickoff our barn being used for this type of awesome fun thing," he said. "It's exciting. To me, I am in this whole line of work because it's fun to me. Feeding people is fun, having good music and getting together as a community is fun. It's about the people to me. Having music on the farm is ultimate fulfillment is what we're trying to do here. Feeding people and having fun with them. Having a couple hundred people come to our farm and share food and music to get together to have fun."
Salloway, founder of Billy Wylder, will also perform. He's played for 15 years and said he understands the performer side of a show as well as the festival goer's perspective. He started playing guitar at 8-years-old and practiced with Pete Seeger and his family. A graduate from University of Vermont, Salloway traveled to Palestine to teach music to youth and build dialogue. Upon returning, he had new content for songs and gathered friends he played with in the past to form the band he's a part of now.
"We're living in trying times where there's these political and social powers trying to divide us. We're the antithesis of that and creating a moonshine in a safe space on the farm making music and liberating and celebration to fuel our human spirit," Salloway said. "It's been a great journey with the 50 concerts we've presented and I cannot wait to return to Vermont."
Moonshine Music Festival starts at 4 p.m. on Aug. 13. Tickets cost $20 and can be found on brownpapertickets.com.
—Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-490-6471