Andalusia’s Music Comes to Chicago in March: Part One. Ronnie Malley and Las Guitarras de Espana

by Gail Dee/We Want Music Without Borders

Andalusia. For decades my heart has swooned to its music.  Maybe you too!  In March two very different live shows focusing on the music of Andalusia are being performed in Chicago. Tonight, March 7 Chicago’s Ronnie Malley & Las Guitarras de Espana present “The Roots of Flamenco: Andaluz and Arabic Music and Dance” at City Winery and March 20 “La Banda Morisca” direct from Andalusia, Spain at Old Town School of Folk Music.

Andalusia is the southern tip of Spain. It is where Flamenco was born. Prior to its birth, the music of the region was already a cultural melange filled with heady rhythms and wailing soulful melody. It is only 7.7 nautical miles through the Straits of Gilbrator from Spain to Morocco and the horn of Africa.  From the 7th to the 15th century, the Iberian Peninsula was part of the Muslim empire and a golden age of civilization flourished under Islamic rulers marked by  Christian,Jews and Muslim living in harmony.  Andaluz’s music was influenced by North African Berbers (Morocco), the Middle East (the oud traveled from Iraq to Spain). The Roma gypsies of India also came there later and influenced the development of flamenco. In 1492 Muslims and Jews were forced to exile Spain or convert to Christianity. The Muslim people who “converted” in order to save their lives became the Moriscos. They spoke their own language ( a mix of Spanish and Arabic) and played their music. All this music preceded “flamenco”.


Ronnie Malley, a multi instumentalist leads the Las Guitarras concert with the oud exploring music from this shared cultural history of the Middle East, North Africa, and Spain. He is a Palestinian American who began playing music with his family as a boy.  He became fascinated with the history of Andalusia and Islam and traveled there to explore and learn about its roots.  This concert is a reflection of his musical journey and exploration as well as a stage play he recently performed and wrote called “Ziryab: The Songbird of Andalusia”  He told me in an interview that the oud orginally came from Iraq with Ziryab who is considered the father of Andaluz music. Here’s a look at Ronnie Malley’s Journey to Andalusia upon which he based his concert.

surabhi-groupCarlo Basile classically trained Spanish and flamenco guitarist created “Las Guitarras de Espana”  over 15 years ago and has many devoted fans. He told me that this concert will vary somewhat  from other  programs because this concert features the traditional music of Andalusia. He said, “Although no two shows are ever the same we usually perform mostly original material based on traditional elements with a focus on flamenco and classical Spanish music.” Following Las Guitarras, music lovers will also enjoy seeing Surabhi, a global fusion group with Indian, African, Arabic, and Spanish flamenco influences.  This ensemble came about as a collaboration of artists featuring Carlo Basile and Saraswathi Ranganathan, a powerful Veenaan Indian veena player and also includes other members of Las Guitarras.  Surabhi does original material as well as traditional.  For this performance Carlo is debuting an original piece he wrote with Chihsuan Yang (Violin/Erhu) while on tour in S. E Asia this winter called “Hanai Pho.” It  is quite lovely.

Both Indian dancer Kinnari  Vora and flamenco dancer, Wendy Clinard will also be part of the ensemble for the evening as well as flamenco dancer Andrea Peterson. Dhananjay Kunte ( Tabla);Greg Nergaard – Bass;Bob Garrett – Percussion round out the concert’s ensemble. Special guests may join the show as well.

Please be certain to secure tickets in advance.  Only a few seats may still be available for purchase at $18-$26 Doors open 6 pm for 8 pm show .

Update: a sneak peak at La Banda Moriscas coming to Old Town School of Folk Music  March 20 (look for Part two coming soon)

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