by Gail Dee
World Music Wednesdays (curated by Mateo Mulcahy- Director of Community Projects and Events) at Old Town School of Folk Music is the bright, hot spot in our grey winter. Every week outstanding musicians from around the world and the United States perform live music with exotic rhythms not easily found elsewhere in Chicago for just $10 suggested donation (and noone turned away for lack of funds). This music series is one of the best cultural experiences Chicago has to offer.
Jan. 6, the 2016 season blasts off with the rockin’ Los Vicios de Papa, a local based Latin “ska” band. They play a blend of “immigrant beats” mixing up cumbia; reggae, “ska” and rock with “socially conscious” lyrics and are just plain fun. On Jan 13, an intriguing local Middle Eastern group, DIO Trio emerges. It includes Omar Almusfi, one of Chicago’s finest percussionists from Syria. He came to Chicago in 2001 after already having been a part of the Syrian National Orchestra. He toured and played around the world including with popular artists like Shakira, Sting and Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble.
The season perks along :Jan 20 Zusha, a Hasidic “soul” band; Jan 27 Tia Juanita from Argentina and (Addition) Feb 3 Indian Kathak dance and music is featured with Pradhanica. (and a correction:The local Brazilian band, Planeta Azul and the Passistas Samba Dancers Feb. 5 are part of the other dynamic Global Dance series on Friday nights.) At the end of February, the series burst into flames with internationally acclaimed artist Noura Mint Seymali from Mauritania (Feb 24) winner of the 2014 All Africa Music Awards for “Best Female Artist in North Africa”; Brazilian guitarist, Badi Assad (March 2 ) and Gregorio Uribe Big Band: a 16-piece orchestra that blends cumbia and other Colombian rhythms from NYC (March 9) and continues with more fine bands into the spring.
No only are the choices in the series diverse and the musicians superb; the venue Maurer Hall is one of the finest in Chicago. It is an intimate yet comfortably spacious concert hall with great sound and sight lines. Dancing is welcomed and encouraged. Alcoholic spirits available to imbibe at reasonable prices (and you can take them inside the concert hall) AND it is family friendly.
The season opener “Los Vicios de Papa” ( LVDP Soundsystem) will be a party. It was a hot summer afternoon at Celebrate Clark Street Festival when I first saw them several years ago– blasting us with their vibrant sound and urgent lyrics telling us about the struggle of their immigrant experience in Chicago. They describe themselves as being ” born out of a crumbling public education system and failing immigration policy in Chicago’s Back of the Yards hood”. This band definitely puts Emma Goldberg’s words “if I can’t dance I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” into action with driving rhythms and horns to keep us dancing to the beat of a different drummer.
Current band members are from both United States and Mexico. They include Rene Lemus (Vocals/guitar) Lessic Franco “Puerko” (Congas) Carlos Ortega (Keyboards) Juan Hernandez (Bass) Raul Fernandez (Drums) Erik Stockmeier (Trumpet) Russ Hooper (Saxophone) Carol MacPherson (Trombone) Ryan Mayer (guitar). They recently were also part of the Chicago Summerdance series in September. You can have a listen to their 2013 album “Fiesta y Lucha” http://losviciosdepapa.bandcamp.com/.
On Jan. 13 DIO TRIO is made up of three highly esteemed Syrian musicians, Dima Osho, a Syrian soprano; Issam Rafae, on oud and Omar Almusfi on percussion. All are originally from Damascus, Syria now living in Chicago area and the U.S. Issam Rafea is a composer whose passion is infusing traditional Arab and Middle Eastern music with new compositional ideas and instrumentation. He formerly was chair of the Arabic Music Department at the High Institute of Music in Damascus and the principal conductor of the Syrian National Orchestra for Arabic Music before coming to Illinois as an artist-in-residence and guest director of the NIU Middle Eastern Music Ensemble in DeKalb in 2013.
As mentioned earlier, Omar Almusfi is one of my favorite percussionists in Chicago. We first met when he was playing with Steve Gibon’s Gypsy Rhythm Quartet several years ago (about 2006). He went on to complete his Masters in World Music Percussion at NIU where he currently teaches and is also the director of the NIU Middle Eastern Ensemble.
You can hear two of their songs. WBEZ’s Worldview from Oct. 2015 recorded Dima and Issam live. Their music starts about the 5:00 minute mark ( Worldview opens with the beautiful Nahuel Panesi who did his US debut at International House) https://soundcloud.com/wbez-worldview/weekend-passport-issam-rafea-and-his-trio-share-the-music-of-syria. Issam; Dima, Omar also just recently toured in Taiwan as part of a quartet called “Hewar”.
Last fall a preview was published by a well known Chicago cultural publication recommending a local band performing as part of the World Music Wednesday. However the writer said this ” Which is a bit of a cheat, because the group is made up entirely of local boys”. I think Chicago is blessed to have talented international musicians living in our midst and grateful that OTSFM supports them by giving them the opportunity to perform as well as offering top notch musicians from overseas. We literally have “world” class musicians living here. Come to a show and see for yourself. Check with us here for more on the upcoming shows in this marvelous series or on FB on our group We Want Music Without Borders.
Tickets and info at http://www.oldtownschool.org or call 773 728-6000
Join our FB group with over 2600 +members for daily updates on live music in Chicago. You can also “like” our FB page for We Want Music Without Borders