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

The Day I Fell in Love with House Music – Chicago Pays Tribute to Frankie Knuckles

“I think dancing is one of the best things anyone can do for themselves. And it doesn’t cost anything,” Frankie Knuckles.

Honestly, I have heard of House music before and paid an occasional visit to Smart Bar, but never really connect with it…until a couple of days ago, when I attended this epic dance party that the city of Chicago threw to celebrate the life of the Godfather of House music, Frankie Knuckles, who recently passed away. Chicago got together, danced and partied in peace. People from all ages and walks of life were present and created a happy, captivating energy! Check a little bit of the party’s awesomeness in this video:

This type of events make me love this beautiful city even more (yes, I love you Chicago – can you tell by all the bragging I do about you?), AND they also awaken my curiosity. So, I talked to David Chavez from Sound Culture, to get some answers about the House music culture in Chicago. He is also a Music Program Coordinator for the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events of the City of Chicago and was one of the brains behind this historic tribute. Here he is sharing his perspective about the House music phenomenon:

What is House music to you?
From a sociological perspective, House music to me is the product of a cultural and socio-economic time in the city, reflective of what was going on in Chicago during the 70’s and early 80’s. An alternative to the stranglehold of a segregated city, the height of 1970’s white flight and economic decay, and the backlash of black popular dance music, Disco.

From a human experience perspective, it was and still is Church for a lot of people, whatever that means to you. A safe space of acceptance to come as you are and celebrate life together without regard to race, class, or sexual orientation. It’s a release of energy and a spiritual recharge all at once. It’s a community that became a culture.

Off the top of my head I can’t really explain it another way, and any Chicago House head would agree, and expand on what I’m trying to say here.

What is the significance of House Music in Chicago?
House Music was born and developed here in Chicago and revolutionized electronic dance music globally. It’s part of our Chicago musical heritage next to Jazz, Blues, and Gospel.

Who was Frankie Knuckles and why did the City of Chicago host a dance party in his honor?
Frankie Knuckles was a DJ and producer who, in the mid to late 70’s, developed the sound that we call House Music today. His continued innovations and influence on DJ’s and producers around the world cemented the House sound. He is the “Godfather of House” and an ambassador for our city.

What places would you recommend visiting to immerse in the House music culture in Chicago?
Go to Gramophone Records, pick up 5 Magazine and read about the scene and various daily club events happening, attend the Chosen Few Picnic 4th of July weekend, and listen to mixes on

I hope the City of Chicago realizes that there is a need to have an event celebrating House music every year. After all, as David Chavez said, it is part of our musical heritage, and it is a global musical phenomenon that originated in Chicago. Events such as the dance party tribute to Frankie Knuckles – being held in public spaces at no charge – encourage integration and help promote the city as a global cultural destination. Kudos Chicago, you scored big with this one!




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



Stay warm and safe with these tips to protect you, your house and your car in subzero temperatures

Yep, 2014 is here and, along with it, one of Chicago’s coldest winter in decades. Can you believe that wind chills could approach 40 below zero tomorrow and Tuesday? Just look at this weather forecast:

Photo credit: WGN TV
Photo credit: WGN TV

That’s crazy!  In order to prepare for this bout of extreme cold weather, Chicago’s local TV station WGN TV posted some tips on what you can do before the arctic temperatures get to Chicago:

The Chicago Tribune also posted tips on how to take care of your car in subzero temperatures:,0,4020069.story?page=1

In addition, the government has useful safety tips to get ready for this extreme cold weather:

One tip that I would like to add for car care is to keep non-clumping cat litter in the car in case your vehicle loses traction. Just pour it in front of your tires and voilà, you’ll be able to get your car out of the snow! Also, have enough food and water for the next two days so you don’t have to leave your house.

You have until tonight to get ready. Please stay safe and warm!

Fun Events in Chicago this Weekend: October 18-20

Ongoing: Chicago Ideas Week
Dates: Oct 14-20, 2013
Venue: Multiple Chicago Locations
Chicago Ideas Week brings together hundreds of the world’s brightest thought leaders to inspire, connect and activate the city of Chicago and beyond. With over 25,000 attendees annually, CIW is the global hub for new ideas, an ecosystem for innovation and a playground of intellectual recreation. See more at:

Ongoing: Fashion Focus-Chicago Fashion Week
This citywide celebration of Chicago’s fashion industry from October 15 to 20 includes a variety of runway shows in Millennium Park showcasing the latest trends in menswear, emerging and established designers, shopping events and much more. Read More

Ongoing: Chicago Humanities Festival

The Chicago Humanities Festival mission is to create opportunities for people of all ages to support, enjoy and explore the humanities. Here is the full festival line up

Ongoing: Chicago International Film Festival
Dates: Oct 10-24, 2013
Venue: AMC River East 21
322 E. Illinois St. Chicago, IL 60610
The festival opens a window onto new worlds to Chicagoans through the exploration of other countries, languages, cultures and different ways of thinking, all the while confirming our shared stories and common humanity. Check the schedule here

Ongoing: Chicago Artists Month
Dates: Sep 27-Oct 31, 2013
Venue: Multiple Chicago Locations
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. Read More

Day of the Dead
Dates: Sep 13-Dec 15, 2013
Venue: National Museum of Mexican Art
1852 W. 19th St. Chicago, IL 60608
Each year, the National Museum of Mexican Art hosts the largest Day of the Dead celebration in the country. The exhibition presents artworks in photography, oil on canvas, wood and linoleum cuts, acid etchings, textiles, cartoneria and other media. Altars, installations, popular art, and fine art by more than 60 Mexican artists from communities in Mexico and the United States are part of the exhibition, which includes dozens of works from the Museum’s Permanent Collection. Read More

10/20: Taste of South Africa with National Geographic at WholeFoods Market
South African wines, dishes, recipes, and fare await you on this special day. Join National Geographic Traveler and South African Tourism exclusively at the South Loop store on this day for a taste of South Africa and lots of raffles, magazine take-aways, and more. Free. Read More

10/20: Third Coast International Audio Festival at Old Town School of Folk Music
A celebration of sound, story and the art of listening… in the dark. Every other fall, the Third Coast stretches its wings, embraces a film festival model (minus the popcorn – too noisy) and presents the Third Coast Filmless Festival – a celebration of sound, story, and the art of listening.Radio fans gather in the dark for themed screenings of unforgettable audio documentaries, plus producer Q&As, workshops and our annual awards ceremony honoring the winners of the Third Coast / Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Competition. Read More

10/20: Open House Chicago
The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s Open House Chicago is a free public event that offers behind-the-scenes access to over 150 buildings across Chicago. October 19-20, 2013. It’s free! Read More

Fun events in Chicago September 23-29

9/25: A Roman Night in Chicago

Hosted by The Italian American Chamber of Commerce Chicago. An exclusive evening presenting The Best Tourist Attractions of the Italian Capital featuring a Taste of Italian Delicacies, Ice Cream, Wines and Beer. Free with RSVP. Read more

9/27-29: Chicago Gourmet at Millennium Park
Chicago Gourmet is a celebration of food and wine showcasing more than 100 of Chicago’s finest restaurants and chefs, as well as hundreds of renowned vintners, spirit makers, and premium breweries from around the world. Guests enjoy dozens of live cooking demonstrations, expert seminars, gourmet tastings, and book signings by internationally renowned chefs, master sommeliers, and winemakers. Read more

9/27-9/29: Chicago International Social Change Film Festival
The festival is a platform for untold stories to be told through film and inspire people to create social change. Read more

9/28: Feria del Mole

The world “mole” comes from the Aztec word “molli,” meaning concoction, stew or sauce. To the uninformed, mole is a Mexican sauce.  Feria del Mole  is an opportunity for women (and some men!) in the community to put their skills on display at a community festival. Over 3,500 people from all over Chicago will come to watch at least 40 women and men compete with their home-made recipes to be awarded the “Best Mole in Little Village.” Read more

9/28: Chicago NeoFolk Fest
A concert with local musicians/artists Goran Ivanovic & Andreas Kapsalis, Luciano Antonio Trio, Vivian Garcia, Carla Starla, Vourteque, and RomaSoul. Read more

9/28: Pet Shop Boys Concert at Auditorium Theater
One of the most critically successful acts of their era, Pet Shop Boys formed in London in August 1981. This Great Britain, synthpop/dance music duo became internationally acclaimed and adored by fans from all over the world for their cheeky, smart, and extremely danceable music. Read more

9/28-29: Design Harvest Festival – Chicago’s annual street festival celebrating design.

This one of a kind fest features Chicago’s best local furniture and home accessory makers, vintage and antique collectors, and local retailers of home design. Read more

9/29: Buena Vista Social Club at Symphony Center

Original members Guajiro Mirabal, Eliades Ochoa, Omara Portuondo and Barbarito Torres come to Symphony Center for a night of the infectious energy that made the group an international phenomenon. Read more

Fun Events in Chicago: September 2-8

9/3: MCA’s Tuesdays at the Terrace

Go to the Museum of Contemporary Jazz for free live jazz concerts every Tuesday until September 24 from 5:30 pm to 8 pm. A dinner buffet prepared by Wolfgang Puck Catering is available each week for $25 per person, and features a changing menu of international barbeque and side dishes created using fresh, locally-grown produce from the MCA Farmer’s Market (see menu details). Tables are limited—call 312.397.4034 or email to reserve your spot. For a more casual evening, bring your own blanket or rent an MCA lawn chair ($5 each) for a relaxing evening on the garden lawn. Hamburgers, house-made sausages and a variety of freshly made salads may be purchased from our outdoor grill along with cold beverages, wine, and seasonal cocktails from the cash bar on the lower terrace. Outside food and beverages are not allowed in the sculpture garden. Stop by their outdoor Summer Studio station for a hands-on art-making experience. Read More

9/4: Sounds of History Jazz Series at DuSable Museum – A Tribute to Dizzy Gillespie. Free.

Bring your blankets & chairs for the last jazzy summer on the patio of the DuSable Museum for 2013! Jazz Treats will be available for you to purchase-Food, Spirits & Cds . Click here for more information

9/4: Mariachi Festival at Millennium Park

National Museum of Mexican Art’s Mariachi Fest featuring: Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles, the first all-female mariachi of the United States, accompanied by Mariachis Perla de Mexico and Real Guadalajara. Last year, the Museum packed Millennium Park with a similar event. This year, they’ll surely repeat that magic. Bring the entire family and experience Mariachi Fest! Part of the 2013 Del Corazón Festival. Read More

9/4: Il Volo concert at Chicago Theater

In May 2009, three fresh-faced teenagers appeared on the popular Italian talent show “Ti Lascio Una Canzone” and dazzled television viewers with their flawless rendition of the Neapolitan standard “O Sole Mio. The boys, who won the competition easily, decided their group needed a name. “Il Volo,” meaning “flight,” was chosen to signify the feeling that these three young tenors were about to spread their wings and fly. Read More

9/4: Jazzin’ at the Shedd

Enjoy spectacular skyline views, live music, fireworks and cocktails at the Shedd Aquarium. Then visit 32,500 animals and explore Shedd’s exhibits, including Jellies. Read More

9/4: Kobo Town Concert at Old School Town of Folk Music

Founded by Trinidadian-Canadian songwriter Drew Gonsalves, Kobo Town is named after the historic neighborhood in Port-of-Spain where calypso was born. Kobo Town takes the intricate wordplay of classic Caribbean music and runs it through a 21st Century filter merging calypso, roots reggae, and acoustic instruments with innovative production techniques, social commentary, and indie rock attitude.Read More

9/4: Tito Rodriguez Tribute by Papo Santiago at City Winery

Papo is currently considered to be among Chicago’s top Salsa bands and performs often at the top venues in Chicago, including The Mayne Stage, Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago Summer Dance, Navy Pier and very often during Live Salsa Sundays @ The Cubby Bear. Read More

9/5 (6-9:30PM): Planeta Azul & Passistas Samba at Chicago SummerDance

Come get an early start on the Brazilian Independence Day festivities as you dance the night away with Planeta Azul! I will be performing with Passistas Samba Dance group for a free samba dance lesson. Take all your new moves and put them to great use as Planeta Azul takes you on a musical tour through Brazil. If you are a hardcore sambista, a forro lover, or just a regular dancing machine, there will be plenty of moving and shaking going on. Come experience the joy, beauty, and vibrancy of Brazil with us! Read More

9/6 Death Boogie at Auditorium Theatre

Death Boogie, the 2012 Edinburgh Fringe Festival winner of TWO Musical Theatre Matters awards for BEST New Music and Best Innovation in Musical Theatre, is a multimedia Hip Hop Poetry Musical that uses projected illustrations and live music to follow the fictional story of Victor Spartan, a blue collar worker turned revolutionist. Read More

9/6-8: Festival de la Villita (Little Village Festival)

Held in Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood, this 24th annual community cultural event celebrates Mexico’s independence from Spanish rule. Highlights include food, arts & crafts, music, carnival rides and kids’ entertainment.On Sunday, the festival is the end location of the 26th Street Parade, one of the largest celebrations of Hispanic culture in the U.S. Read More

9/6 Brazil’s 191st Birthday-Dance Party at Logan Square Auditorium

Celebration of Brazil’s Independence featuring live music for a dance party Carnaval style. Read More

9/7 This is Colombia – Networking and Photo Exhibit

Profesionales Colombianos en Chicago presents “My Land, My People, My Culture: This is Colombia” A photography exhibit work of Colombia By Colombians. Read More

9/7 at 2pm: Von Steuben German Day Parade

The annual Von Steuben Parade is the German American Event of the year. It is held in September, when hundreds of participants march, dance, play music or ride the many beautiful floats on Lincoln Avenue and join the festivities later at the German-American Fest.Read More

9/7: Guiness Oyster Fest

Tents housing fresh oyster and seafood as well as other culinary delights from local restaurants are but one highlight of what has grown over the years to become a truly unique post-Labor Day happening. Read More

9/7: Les Nubians at The Shrine

Grammy Nominated international recording artists Les Nubians have intrigued audiences for over a decade with their inventive and glamorous Afropean style. This distinctive sound embodies the timeless vibrations of Miriam Makeba, Ella Fitzgerald, Doudou N’diaye Rose, Fela Kuti, Edith Piaf, The Fugees, and Soul II Soul. Recognized for their colorful auras, Les Nubians’ vogue is a fusion of Funkin’ Fashion and Modern Amazon. Adoring fans pay tribute to the French/Cameroonian sister duo for their continuous flow of jazzy nuances, hard hitting drum ‘n’ bass lines, harmonious melodies, conscious proclamations and humanitarian endeavors. Read More

9/7: Marc Anthony concert

Marc Anthony has sold over 12 million albums worldwide, making him one of the most influential artists of his time and a true ambassador of Latin music and culture. His new studio project titled Marc Anthony 3.0 was released July 23, 2013. Marc is coming to Chicago with his “Vivir Mi Vida” worldwide tour this week. Read More

9/7: Villapalooza

The third annual Little Village Music Festival will be packed with live music performances including sets by world-renowned artist Hector Guerra: the New Revolution of Urban Latin Music, socially conscious Mexico City-based MC Bocafloja and local favorites Malafacha. Read More

9/7 at noon: Central American Parade

The Central American Parade celebrates Central America’s independence, including Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.On Montrose Ave. from California to Kimball.

9/8: Congo Fest at Old Town School of Folk Music

A Humanitarian concert featuring Pepe Felly Manuaku Waku, the creator of Congolese Pop Style. AfriKa Yetu, with the Congolese Musicians of North America, present a stunning range of Congolese music, from traditional sounds of the Pygme forest to the more modern soukous music, with elements of rumba, samba, meringue and Congolese Styles Afro-Jazz. Read More

9/8: Dos Santos at The Whistler

Dos Santos: Anti-Beat Orquesta rocks the sounds of pan-Latin American cumbia. Their gritty, grassroots approach captures the “golden age” of streamlined, tight-knit ensembles that shook sweatbox dance floors with raw and fierce energy throughout Latin America in the 1970s—honest dance music with no frills and no fear, anchored by piercing guitars, garage organs, and straight-ahead percussive might. Read More

Interview: video of Novalima concert in Chicago

Novalima brought the house down during their fourth concert in Chicago! Here is a video of their last concert with some interviews before and after the show. The first two interviews are in Spanish. If you don’t speak Spanish, here is a summary:  Cotito, one of the percussionists of the band and the ambassador of Peruvian cajon, talks about their latest Novalima CD: Diabolic. I ask him about the origin of this name and he doesn’t know the answer, so I suggest one: it must be due to the diabolic sounds of his cajon that gets everybody crazy. Then it is Ramon Perez Prieto’s turn, one of the co-founders of Novalima, talking about the beauty of Chicago and expressing his interest in exploring bars here. He also explains that Novalima music is a fusion of rhythms from around the world but with strong Afro-Peruvian roots, which includes the use of traditional Afro-Peruvian musical instruments.