Dalai Lama's festival makes L.A. its first stop

- already famous as a multicultural mecca - is the opening venue for a

From Beverly Hills to East L.A., this city suddenly looks like a cross between the United Nations and Woodstock.

Indian saris and Mexican serapes mingle alongside Gucci gowns and Gap jeans, and sandals shuffle in step with Reeboks and Nikes.

This city is getting a few extra volts of culture shock at no fewer than 85 locations - churches, theaters, parks, museums - by nearly 30 top indigenous groups playing sacred music from every corner of the world.

Los Angeles is the first city to participate in a global millennium event that will continue in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. Initiated by Tibet's spiritual and political leader, the Dalai Lama, the week-long show began with a five-hour wallop before 16,000 at the Hollywood Bowl Sunday.

"I'm not sure I've ever been to something where you can see a Jewish cantor, a Sufi ud player, Buddhist chanting, and native dance in one place," said Arianna Huffington, author and commentator. "It really is amazing to see the diversity of sacred music, its power in various forms, and realize it's something we've squeezed out of our secular lives."

After putting on two multicultural festivals in the early 1990s - but failing at a third try for lack of support - cultural leaders here leapt at the idea to try something more than just a loosely organized umbrella for avant garde, and sometimes quirky, cultural offerings. "It was inclusive, embracing, and ... connects the arts and music with faith-based organizations," said Judy Mitoma, festival director.

Amid the cheers and standing ovations for nearly every act, interviews with those from the cheap seats ($10) to stageside ($1,500) revealed appreciation for the festival's motives.

"What a beautiful privilege to be involved in something whose purpose it is to lift a whole community out of its compartmentalized thinking," said Jacqueline Monash, a 30-year Los Angeles resident. "To focus on sacred music is to focus on something larger than one's own emotions."

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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