Where to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Chicago

It has been a while since I last posted, but I am back to tell you where to celebrate the next big holiday in Chicago. Historically, Cinco de Mayo is a Mexican holiday that commemorates the victory of Mexico over France in the battle of Puebla in 1862. This holiday, however, is more popular in the United States than in Mexico. Why? Changing demographics and the enormous repercussion this victory had on the outcome of the U. S. Civil War. Some historians state that had Mexico not defeated the French in Puebla, France would have gone to the aid of the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War and the United States’ destiny would have been different. Nowadays, Cinco de Mayo’s historical significance got lost in time and the holiday is more of a cultural celebration of everything Mexican and and an excuse to party than anything else. 

Chicago holds one of the largest Mexican-American communities in the country and the city offers many choices to celebrate on May 5. However, out of all those options, my recommendation is to network and socialize with a great organization that will be hosting a huge Mexican-American celebration in Chicago: the Cinco de Mayo event put on by HispanicPro at the Godfrey Hotel. HispanicPro is the premier networking organization for Hispanic professionals in Illinois and the largest producer of networking events targeting the Hispanic professional community in Chicago. It’s free to join, you get access to some of the coolest venues in Chicago and meet interesting people from different professions. I was invited to their April event at Ronero, and while enjoying some light food and beverages, I had an interesting conversation with the president of the Chicago Symphony Latino Alliance (CSLA). CSLA is another great organization that hosts pre Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert networking events with special guest artists who give insights into the evening’s concert. I learned a lot about their membership (it’s free!) and some of the interesting events they offer. If HispanicPro hadn’t invited me to their professional event, I would never have learned about this unique experience from CSLA. HispanicPro functions are not only great for networking, professional tips, and discovering unique opportunities, they’re also festive events to attend. The music and the conga player at the end of the event I attended had many of us going to the networking floor and turning it into a dance floor. This organization definitely strikes the perfect balance between function and fun. If you want to find out more about them and their upcoming Cinco de Mayo event, visit their website.

A couple of days later, on May 7 at noon, head to the Cinco de Mayo Parade in Little Village, one of the signature Mexican neighborhoods in Chicago and home to more people of Mexican ancestry than any other community in the Midwest. It is one of the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the city. The parade goes from Cermak Rd. and Damen Ave to Marshall Blvd. By the way, did you know that Little Village retail strip is the second highest grossing shopping district in Chicago after glamourous Michigan Avenue? Now that you know, on Cinco de Mayo, let’s raise our Margaritas and make a toast for the brave Mexican and Mexican-American people who contributed and keep contributing to the greatness of the United States of America.



Recommended: Cellist Ian Maksin New Album Release Performance September 20

It was love at first sound when cellist and composer Ian Maksin heard cello for the first time at age six:  “it instantly seemed to me like the sound came straight from the human soul, and I had to learn how to play whatever it would take”. Since then, he has gained international acclaim for his beautiful tone and distinct style as well as his uniquely charismatic way with the audience. Ian takes the cello well outside its conventional scope and blends together classical, jazz and world music.  He has collaborated with artists of many different genres including Andrea Bocelli, P. Diddy, Snoop Dogg and Gloria Estefan. He has also opened for such artists as Sting and his guitarist Dominic Miller. To Ian,  his main goal as an artist is “to close the gap between generations and societies through art, and make the beauty of cello music accessible to everyone”.

Ian is coming out with a new album titled Soul Companion. He will have a big Chicago release celebration performance this Saturday, September 20 at the Old Town School of Folk Music with some very special guests. The album has original music for solo cello inspired by  folk music from around the world as well as his own rendition of Sting’s all-time classic Fields of Gold. He will joined on stage by Joffrey Ballet dancer Lucas Segovia, members of the legendary flamenco ensemble Las Guitarras de España (Carlos Basile and Bob Garrett) as well as veena player from India Saraswathi Ranganathan for a unique jam blending music from every corner of the world.

IAN MAKSIN New Album  Release Performance at Old Town School of Folk Music SEPTEMBER 20, 8pm

General admission: $20
Advance purchase is highly recommended. Buy your ticket here:

Free Public World Cup Viewing Parties in Chicago

Chicago is cheering for the US Soccer Team
Chicago is cheering for the US Soccer Team

Do you want to experience the World Cup but are not able to go to Brazil? No problem. Chicago’s got you covered! Did you know that the United States Soccer Federation headquarters are located here? To us Chicagoans, this translates into three free public 2014 FIFA World Cup viewing parties this month. These daylong events will be hosted by the US Soccer in Grant Park during the U.S. first-round matches. The schedule and location of these parties are as follows:

  • June 16: USA vs. Ghana (5 p.m.): Arvey Field; near Columbus Drive and Roosevelt Road intersection in Grant Park
  • June 22: USA vs. Portugal (5 p.m.): Arvey Field; near Columbus Drive and Roosevelt Road intersection in Grant Park
  • June 26: USA vs. Germany (11 a.m.): Petrillo Music Shell at Butler Field; near Columbus Drive and Jackson Street intersection in Grant Park

Also, since Chicago is a global city with residents from all around the world, the city is definitely an exciting place to experience the World Cup. Our diversity is so rich that The Huffington Post has created a map of where to watch the World Cup matches in Chicago, sorted by country the crowd will likely be supporting. If you know of any cool place where to watch the World Cup that is missing in this map, please leave a comment below.  And if you have never joined the celebrations, I would highly recommend you experiencing it.  The “jogo bonito” (the beautiful game, as soccer is called)  definitely has the power to bring people from different backgrounds “juntos num só ritmo” (together in one rhythm).

FIFA World Cup Viewing Parties in Chicago

Free tickets for Playing for Change Concert tomorrow

I have tickets to give away for the Playing for Change concert this Saturday at 7pm at Old Town School (here is the event page).

To enter for a chance to win one pair of complimentary tickets, leave a comment below. The winner will be selected randomly and notified via email tomorrow June 7, 2014 in the morning

Playing for Change is a multimedia music project that seeks to inspire, connect, and bring peace to the world through music. Mark Johnson, the founder of the Playing for Change Movement was kind enough to answer some of my questions about it.

What is Playing for Change?

Playing For Change is a Movement uniting people all over the world through music.

A small crew travel the globe recording and filming musicians live outside creating Songs around the world such as “Stand By Me” and “What’s going on”.  As we travel we meet different musicians and assemble some of the best to be a part of the Playing For Change Band, a group of 10 or so musicians from 8 different countries who bring the power of music live to the stage and create a world with the audience where we are going to make it as a human race.  Playing For Change also created a separate Non-profit titled the PFC Foundation establishing music schools around the world in the communities we had met while traveling and recording.  Today there are 9 music programs in 6 countries.


How was this collective created?

The PFC Band was initially created to perform a benefit concert to fund and support the PFC Foundation’s first music school in Gugulethu, South Africa in 2009.  The idea was to combine on the stage many of the musicians from our songs around the world who had never met in person.  They had only met through the videos so when they finally got together on the stage there was so much love and talent we knew this musical group was destined to play together all over the world.  Five years later, the concerts are on Fire and audiences everywhere get to join in the global family through the music.


Any famous musicians involved in this collective?

As the project has grown more and more musicians have joined in, including Keith Richards, Bono, Sara Bareilles, Stephen and Ziggy Marley, Keb’ Mo’ and Jackson Browne and the list keeps on growing…



Any touching stories or outcomes as a result of this collaboration?

One great story features PFC Band member / singer Titi Tsira.  She is from Gugulethu Township, a very poor area outside of Capetown, South Africa.  While we where there to open the very first PFC Music school, Titi came to perform and I remember hearing her voice and falling out of my chair.  Titi reminded me of an South African Aretha Franklin!! She has been in the PFC Band ever since and she is also featured on our upcoming PFC 3 CD/DVD Songs around the world singing with Keith Richards and Sara Bareilles.  Titi has come a long way from home to bring the spirit and love of South Africa to the world.


Why should we go see your show?

People should come to see the PFC Band so they can join the world wide family using music to connect hearts across the globe. The band is filled with so much talent and soul and the concerts mix Blues, soul, Reggae, Salsa and Zulu Funk together into a performance you will never forget!! There is so much talent in this band from so many different countries and cultures and they unite to create something new and powerful, music for the poeple.

One Love, Mark Johnson


Mark Johnson, the founder of Play for Change, in Congo
Mark Johnson, the founder of Play for Change, in Congo

Win Tickets to CumbiaSazo Party this May 31st

I have two tickets to give away to the CumbiaSazo dance party happening this Saturday May 31st! If you don’t know what CumbiaSazo or cumbia is, keep reading. David Itzi Nallah from CumbiaSazo explains it all. This party seems to be ideal for global urban explorers!
To enter for a chance to win a pair of complimentary tickets, leave a comment below. The winner will be selected randomly and notified via email on May 30, 2014.

What is CumbiaSazo?

CumbiaSazo is a DIO (do-it-ourselves) party that brings together various DJs, bands, and visual artists for a night of dancing & surprises. Only happening a few times a year and usually in different locations, the theme is broadly that of being future-rooted, or of looking back while looking forward, and I think offers something unique for a generation of partygoers who want to honor their immigrant roots while forging some kind of new identity in progress. Musically, the party represents a newer Chicago local/global flavor that digresses from the old term of ‘world music’ and instead embraces an almost rave-spirited mixing and mashing of global rhythms that’s fit for a club. Additionally, we try to fundraise for local organizations doing good work and so it’s a whole melting pot of communities joining in to create a vibe. Diverse art for diverse people is something we think is hard to find in a party space (especially in a mainstream club environment), so the party is something our collective experiments with by adding in whatever elements people think would be fun- music, bands, art, decor, puppets, piñatas, food, etc.

What is cumbia?

Cumbia is a music genre and family of rhythms popular throughout Latin America that originated in Colombia & Panama during 17th century slavery as a courtship/communicative dance and was born of a cultural mix of black and indigenous backgrounds. Still a peoples music and not quite mainstream, the rhythm has the syncopated feel of a heartbeat, which makes for great bodily dancing, and could be considered a backbone rhythm of Latin America while still being wholly connected to the tree trunk that is African sound from which all other music genres come. While the traditional instruments and influences have morphed and melded across the American continents over time, what’s intriguing to us is that today’s young people of Colombia and connected countries worldwide are re-mixing and re-intepreting cumbia as a way of breathing life into their cultural heritage while having some fun.

Why should we go see your show this May 31st?

Because we work so hard to put it together! Hehe. No really, I would say if you’re curious about new music, enjoy shaking your hips on a dance floor rather than pumping your fists, or consider yourself a ‘global citizen’ in any way, this party’s probably for you.

Why did you choose Thalia Hall in Pilsen for this party?

It was a difficult decision actually. After being underground the past years and even throwing a large warehouse party in Pilsen with it last year, we decided to go above-ground and find legit venues this season. On the one hand at 1200 capacity, Thalia Hall is a space in the city that could accommodate the rising popularity of the party where there are so few affordable options. It’s also in our dear Pilsen neighborhood where many of our organizers live and play, so it’s home and makes sense. However, with its re-opening in the context of a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood I think everyone is wondering what is going to come out of its re-introduction on 18th street. Undoubtedly, the space is mysterious and beautiful and will bring in some internationally-renowned talent to Pilsen’s doorsteps, which can be good, but no one knows what it will look like exactly. Rather than shy from that unknown and bring our beloved party to north-side neighborhoods where the big venues live, we wanted the challenge of introducing people to Thalia Hall for the first time and thought that having this many people, mostly from the area, under this roof, would forge a feeling that hasn’t been felt here in a while. That’s the intention at least and we’re excited to find out what that feeling will be.

The whole music line up and bios are here



Get an Exclusive Preview of Studio Mangiameli Flamenco Show!

Do you like flamenco or are interested in exploring this dance form? Then take advantage of this opportunity! Studio Mangiameli is inviting four of you, Chicago Urbanite followers,   to attend a final dress rehearsal and get a  sneak peek of its upcoming annual student showcase on Thursday May 29th.  The show is titled Tides and it is an exploration of the moments that leave indelible marks on human lives and alter the landscape of identity. Tides features original live music from some of Chicago’s most recognized flamenco and world music players, including Carlo Basile (Las Guitarras De España), guitarist Diego Alonso and percussionist Bob Garrett, soon to appear in Sting’s new musical, The Last Ship. World-renowned flamenco singer Vicente “El Cartucho” Griego will be this year’s very special guest.

Just leave a comment down below and I will include your name on the guest list. In the meantime, here is a short but insightful interview with Chiara Mangiameli, the director and creator of Tides, about her life-changing experience with flamenco and her inspiration for this show.


Please tell us about your background and how you got involved with flamenco.

I have a strong background in theater and additionally I dabbled in various forms of dance throughout my youth and adulthood, from ballet to tap to African dance. Nothing stuck until I found flamenco. The truth is the Gypsy Kings were what got me interested in the more traditional Andalusian art form. I fell in love with the percussive sound of the guitar and the unmistakable melisma of the voice. Ironically I knew nothing of the dance form but once I took my first class, I never looked back and eventually ended up in Seville several times over the course of a few years to immerse myself completely in the music and culture. The inherently dramatic and individualistic emphasis of this dance style felt like a perfect fit.


This production is inspired by stories of critical moments in your students’ lives. Can you recall one story in particular that specially touched you?

First, let me say that I tend to draw inspiration from my students because I’m always amazed and touched by the amount of resilience and dedication they have. Everyone that so generously shared a piece of their private life with me had a very moving and genuine story. I can’t say that there was one in particular that touched me more than another, simply because there are aspects of all the stories that I found myself relating to, whether as a dancer, an immigrant, a daughter, a woman.


Why should we go see your show? What can we expect?

I strive to present dance and particularly flamenco, in a context that illustrates more than a choreography or a series of movements accompanied by music. I’m interested in why we choose to dance, what makes us vulnerable, transparent, what allows us to relate to each other as human beings. You can expect beautiful original music by my incredible collaborators, a special guest flamenco singer who will knock your socks off, and forty plus dancers that have been looking forward to this show for eight months and have a clear voice and point of view about their place on that stage. My hope is that the audience will be able to relate to some of the stories they hear because at the end of the day, we all have our struggles with navigating the changing tides.


Performances will take place at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N Noble Street in Chicago, on May 30 and May 31st at 7:30PM CST and on June 1st at 4:30PM CST. Tickets are $25 and $15 for children ages 12 and under. Parking is free.

Get Tickets

Tides Show Studio Mangiameli



Save the date: Reggae band Black Uhuru is coming to Chicago November 23


Grammy-award winning Jamaican group Black Uhuru is one of the most recognized and prolific reggae bands for over 50 years. Black Uhuru’s long success has allowed them to become ambassadors of reggae while earning several achievements in the music industry. With 14 full length albums, 7 instrumental dub albums, and 4 live albums they have the highest record sales in reggae music behind Bob Marley. The album Red was voted #23 for Rolling Stone’s list of “100 Greatest Albums of the 1980′s. Aside from winning the first reggae grammy they have been nominated 5 more times. They are the only reggae group to have won the Diamond Awards of Excellence in 1994.

The band is coming to Chicago on November 23 for an exclusive concert at Mayne Stage.

Tickets are for sale here:

This Saturday: Check the Fashion & Arts Humanities Fête

Hello Urbanites!

Do you have plans this Saturday? How about checking out The Fashion and Arts Humanity Fete? This is an event where nominated entities in Chicagoland’s fashion and arts communities are awarded and honored for their notable humanitarian and community achievements. The goal of the event is to give thanks for humane and charitable accomplishments and encourage others to give back to their communities, especially within the Art and Fashion industry. This year marks the celebration of the new organization “The Arts of Humanity”, created based on the platform for Fashion and Arts Humanities Fete. The Arts of Humanities is an educational and charitable organization that fosters the positive qualities of being a civilized human via the study, practice, and observation of compassion, selflessness, and dignity in self and others. Check the event’s website at www.fahfawards.org and buy your tickets at www.fahfawards.org/tickets/


Below you will find more detailed information about the event:


Where & When
: Saturday, October 26th

5:00pm – 6:45pm Red Carpet Reception hosted by Good Night Buzz

7:00pm-9:00pm Awards Show hosted by Chundria Stanback
The All New Harmony Venue (1908 South Millard Ave 

Who Attends:
In attendance with you will be decision making business and non-profit leaders, community activists, successful and emerging entrepreneurs, and arts and fashion/style aficionados.

Special Guests:

Joining the attendees this year includes as seen on the OWN Network, Six Brown Chicks, Artist Antonio Lee, Paul Bachman, President of Americans for Disabled Americans, and James Flagg CEO of ISAVE.

 General admission seating for as low as $8 with discount.
 Premium seating near the stage, bloggers, media, special guests, and winners for $17.

This year’s awards ceremony will include a live performance from Light Alive!! Infused in the award show will be fashion show segments featuring Chicago’s best and talented designers.

Meet and Greet:
Following the Awards Show, attendees will have the opportunity to meet our winners and learn more about how they can be involved.






Fun events in Chicago Oct 1-6

So October is here already! The government shutdown is on but Chicago does not stop offering us fun activities throughout the month. Look out for the Chicago Marathon, a couple of Fashion Weeks and the International Film Festival in the upcoming days. Here are my picks for this week:

Ongoing: Chicago Artists Month (CAM)
The annual month-long celebration is going “In the Neighborhood.” Discover the work of hundreds of Chicago artists through exhibitions, openings, art walks, open studios, performances and opportunities for learning/making. Each weekend CAM focuses on a different neighborhood with a series of art events in curated by a local arts expert. This month, the event will feature the Portgage Park, South Shore/South Chicago, Pilsen/Little Village and East Garfield Park neighborhoods. Featured events are:
Celestial Bodies: September 29 –October 31st
Boundless Shores: South Chicago/South Shore. October 1-31
Jazz Brunch at the Parrot Cage in South Shore Cultural Center: October 13
Click here for more information.

10/1-5: Latino Fashion Week

This is the only full week and tour dedicated to Latino Fashion in the United States, showcasing top Latino designers from Central and South America, the Caribbean and the U.S. Read More

10/3: The Rhythm of Rajasthan Concert

The Rhythm of Rajasthan performs an exciting fusion of traditional rhythms and melodies from the state of Rajasthan. The group captures the romanticism and heroism of the north Indian desert in a visceral hypnotic performance of poetry, dance, and music. The hereditary caste musicians perform the traditional music of the Langa and Manganiar in addition to Kalbelia dance as a component in the group’s colorful and stunning performance.Read More

10/3 5-8pm: Pop-Art Loop Gallery Walk

Enjoy art, beverages and good company in the Loop’s newest galleries. It’s the final Pop-Up Art Loop gallery walk of 2013. Free and open to the public. Read More

10/3: James Bond themed Masquerade Soirée
A party to bring clean & safe drinking water to those in developing nations (Charity Water), as well as to benefit the Chicago Basket Brigade. The Basket Brigade’s mission is to help local struggling families enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together by anonymously delivering them a surprise gift of a beautifully wrapped basket of food for the holidays to enjoy.Read More

10/3 8:30pm: First Chicago International Festival of Organ and Instrumental Music at Holy Trinity Polish Church, 1118 Noble St (free parking)

Gedymin Grubba – organ (Gdansk, Poland) http://www.gedymin.org and Ian Maksin – cello (USA/Russia) http://www.ianmaksin.com
Tickets: $12 online discount at http://www.ianmaksin.com $15 at the door
Music by J.S. Bach, Buxtehude, Janca, Guilmant and Maksin. Portion of the proceeds for this performance will be donated to the music program at the Holy Trinity High School.

Ongoing: Second City’s a Clown Car Named Desire
A spectacular night of illusion featuring brave, multitasking mothers expressing themselves, hyper hipsters competing for the ultimate in cool, and long-term monogamous couples desperately trying to remember how they got that way. Read More

10/5: Opening of Chicago Lyric Opera 59th Season: Otello

The curtain rises on Lyric’s 59th season on October 5 with Verdi’s OTELLO!  If you can’t make it to the opera house, tune in to the live broadcast on 98.7WFMT and streaming worldwide at www.wfmt.combeginning at 4:45pm CDT!

10/6 Art Depth’s Annual Party: Goddess
Artists will be creating on-site during GODDESS – an official program of Chicago Artists Month. Their work as well as select work of others will be presented later that month in a pop-up-exhibit. As always, inspiration will provided by Lady Jack | Lindsey Marks,Randi Russo and Maja Bijedić will be adding something special to this evening! For more details visit GODDESS (Art Depth’s 4th Annual) or http://www.artdepth.org

Today: Islamic Art – Mirror of the Invisible World Film Screening


Art can be a beautiful starting point to become familiar with diverse people, places, history, faiths and cultures. Marvel at 1,400 years of Muslim art from countries such as Turkey, Spain, Mali, and Israel, and learn more about the shared histories between East and West.

The Illinois Humanities Council, in partnership with the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN), and the Chicago Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-Chicago) present:

Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World Film Screening. FREE
5:30pm, Thursday August 29, 2013 at CAIR-Chicago

Get event details here.

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