To promote its smile-generating new album, Swing Around the World, the Putumayo World Music label sponsors a CD release and swing dance party for people of all ages this Sunday at Berkeley’s Ashkenaz (1317 San Pablo Ave., 510-525-5054). The 3 p.m. blast features low-cost, family-friendly swing lessons with local teachers Nick Lawrence and Leah Tang — toddlers are free to swing along without charge. Swing has maintained its hold since it first conquered US dancefloors in the ’30s and ’40s. Its sunny, feel-good disposition, perfect for celebratory dancing that makes you glad to work up a sweat, carried it around the world in short order. Select musicians in southern Africa, France, Hawaii, and Italy (for starters) have embraced the trend, blending swing and jazz with indigenous expressions to create music that is simultaneously here, there, and everywhere.
Expect tunes from Swing Around the World, whose eleven selections variously reflect the influence of Louis Armstrong, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Duke Ellington, and Gypsy swing violinist Django Reinhardt. American contributions include jazz greats Oscar Peterson and Clark Terry’s 1964 track “Mumbles,” with Terry making fun of the scat-singing tradition popularized by Armstrong. Other cuts from the land of the not-so-free include Hawaii’s Ka’au Crater Boys praising surfing in “Opihi Man,” a swing track that won composer Craig Kamahele a Hoku Award (the Hawaiian equivalent of a Grammy) in 1995; and the Jambalaya Cajun Band performing “Hey, Rock” in Cajun dialect. Selections from other lands include the Cool Crooners of Bulawayo recounting a story from Zimbabwe’s fight for independence, Triton from the isle of Mauritius, and the droll Renzo Arbore e i Suoi Swing Maniacs reviving the Golden Age of Italian Swing. Perhaps the most interesting selection comes from Seattle’s Children of the Revolution, who cut through the sugar with a harmonically spicy tribute to Reinhardt. Thanks to the presence of the able Nick, who has been teaching various forms of swing at Ashkenaz for a decade and a half, a fun time is assured. Ashkenaz.com — Jason Victor Serinus
We’re approaching the sixtieth anniversary of the atomic attack on Hiroshima on August 6, and to commemorate that terrible event and also to present a hopeful face to the future, there’s a special performance and ritual Saturday evening (7:30) at UC Berkeley’s International House. Hiroshima Stories is a joint project of the Living Arts Playback Theatre Ensemble and Healing the Wounds of History, with performances by Aya Kasai, Armand Volkas, the Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble, and the Genyukai Berkeley Okinawan Music Ensemble, along with personal testimony by A-bomb survivors and actors “playing back” their stories. $10. 2299 Piedmont Ave., Berkeley. Reservations: 510-642-9461. LivingArtsCenter.org — Kelly Vance
We’re all familiar with the beloved story of Cinderella, right? Leave it to Ron Lytle of Alameda’s Altarena Playhouse to put an audacious contemporary twist on the classic tale by setting it in SF’s Castro district and making it a musical called Oh My Godmother! Our heroine is now a hero — a gay teenager with a homophobic stepmother; the prince is now the adopted son of drag queens questioning his own sexuality; and the score includes tongue-in-cheek tunes like “Fabulous!” and “Old-Fashioned Commitment Ceremony.” Air kisses all around, dahling. Oh My Godmother! opens Friday and runs until August 14. For tickets, call 510-523-1553. — Eric K. Arnold
Anti-seafood activists, you may breathe easy. No crustaceans will be harmed during Killing My Lobster’s East Bay debut Thursday at the Ashby Stage. The SF-based sketch comedy troupe — whose members claim there have been no skirmishes with SF Giants mascot Crazy Crab during their eight years of existence — notes that the name originates from an inside joke about a Roberta Flack song. KML’s latest production, The Wonderful World of Science, presents hilarious vignettes revolving around scientific themes, such as a dating service for frogs, and a matheist — whose girlfriend breaks up with him for being a believer in empirical evidence. Through August 6. KillingMyLobster.com — Eric K. Arnold