Ashkenaz Music & Dance Community Center is a nationally recognized nonprofit music and culture venue that specializes in presenting live world and roots music. Ashkenaz brings people of all ages, cultures and lifestyles together with music and dance programs that include African, Balkan, Brazilian, Cajun/Zydeco, Carribbean, Middle Eastern, Reggae, American roots from Bluegrass to Swing, and more.
What We Offer
Ashkenaz presents nightly live music, dance, and movement classes, workshops, programs for children, and benefit shows. Ashkenaz's Cafe is open during shows and serves mostly organic vegetarian fare, beer (bottled & draft), wine, and non-alcoholic beverages.
Everyone is Welcome!
Ashkenaz is all ages and family-friendly. All programs are open to children and kids 12 and under receive free admission (unless otherwise noted). * Ashkenaz is 100% smoke-free. * Ashkenaz is wheelchair accessible. * Ashkenaz has ample parking in the lot across the street after 9 pm.
History of Ashkenaz:
Ashkenaz was founded in 1973 by David Nadel, a dedicated human rights activist and folk dancer, in response to the San Francisco Bay Area's strong interest in international folk dance. David himself had a life changing experience when he became involved with the Westwind International Folk Ensemble. He saw that listening and dancing to the music of other cultures fostered an understanding of different heritages and he was determined to make this experience available to others.
David Nadel transformed a warehouse on San Pablo Avenue into a dancehall devoted to presenting international and contemporary roots music and dance. Modeling the interior and exterior of the building after an Eastern European wooden synagogue, he envisioned a place where the world's music and dance would dissolve the differences that keep people apart.
David pioneered the presentation of world music long before the genre had a name. For twenty-four years he led Ashkenaz to become a community watering hole presenting music as diverse as Balkan, Cajun, Zydeco, African Highlife, Brazilian Samba, Afrobeat, Calypso, Soca, Blues, Contra Dance, Eastern European Folk Music, Flamenco, Reggae, Salsa, Ska, Soukous, Bluegrass, East & West Coast Swing and more. In 1996 David was murdered by a drunk he refused to let back into the building. It was the one violent act in a dancehall dedicated to peace and nonviolence.
After David's death, a group of diverse community members (dancers, musicians, employees, cultural activists) came together and formed a tax-exempt nonprofit arts organization to continue the important cultural work that David Nadel began. With overwhelming community support, the new nonprofit was able to put a down payment on the building and has been presenting dance concerts, educational workshops, and fundraisers six to seven nights a week year-round. The community's strong support has also made it possible to purchase a state-of-the art sound system, refurbish the dance floor and make numerous upgrades to the building.
In its 30-year history, Ashkenaz has built an ever-expanding community through multi-cultural, participatory music and dance. In a world increasingly filled with racial and ethnic strife, Ashkenaz creates community by providing a safe place where diverse audiences gather, dancing together to the rhythms of cultures from around the world. Ashkenaz is an all-ages venue, a place where children are always welcome.