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.

 

 

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Win Tickets to Ed Motta Concert in Chicago this Thursday

$25 in advance | $30 day of | $35 preferred seating 

Ed Motta is a Brazilian musician of musica popular brasileira, rock, soul, funk and jazz. At the end of the 80´s, Ed Motta burst upon the music scene as a major singer and one of Conexão Japeri´s composers and producers. He was an instant success on the carioca show circuit and his 1988 debut album, “Conexão Japeri” (Warner), confirmed it. Songs like “Manuel”, “Vamos dançar”, “Baixo Rio” and “Um love” became big hits. The songs were marked by lavish musicality and introduced strong soul and funk components into the pop-rock scene that was the rage in Brazil at the time. It was soon clear that at age 16, Ed Motta had arrived and was making plans to soar much higher.

Two decades later, not even the most optimistic of optimists could have foreseen he would get this far. Today he is a singer and composer, plays several instruments, makes arrangements and produces music in many different countries. In his own style, while remaining loyal to funk-soul, he mixes influences that vary from jazz to popular Brazilian music, from Hollywood film soundtracks to rock, from classical music to American standards, from bossa nova to reggae. The result of this melting pot of references has already been recognized all over the world and acknowledged in recent tours across Europe, Japan, the United States and South America. Inside studios or on stage, Ed has also played with names such as Roy Ayers, Chucho Valdés, Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick (leader of Incógnito), Ryuichi Sakamoto, Paul Griffin, Bernard Purdie, Bo Diddley, Ed Lincoln, Miltinho, Mondo Grosso, Marcos Valle, João Donato, Dom Salvador, among many others.

Besides music and the stage, Ed has always kept up an online column in “Veja” magazine and presents the weekly radio show “Empoeirado” (on Monday nights, at 8 PM), when he plays rarities from his vast collection of rare vinyl records on São Paulo´s Rádio Eldorado FM (that can also be heard on his site).

Ed’s newest album AOR has been one of the most intricate records he’s ever made. In his own words:

“The mixing rate, for instance, was of one week per song. On most records, especially in Brazil, one day is set aside for each song. I used to work with 2, 3 days. One of the greatest talents that I’ve ever encountered in sound engineering, MarioLeo, was the technician in charge. A shining sound is what you want in AOR culture, just like an extremely low bass is in a reggae recording. In the world of pop music, politeness is wrongly taken for coldness, mannerism. In AOR, technical perfection is a virtue, as in jazz and classical music. I am very lucky to have had great musicians by my side, each one’s signature and accent is indispensable so that my arrangements can take on the life and shape I imagine for them. All of them are outstanding musicians, with personality and their own sound and style. And I got lucky: Chico Pinheiro, the bluesy leader of Incognito took part, as well as legendary guitarist David T.Walker, who has recorded just about everything and a little more of North-American music from the 70’s to the present day.”

Ed Motta will be appearing at Mayne Stage this Thursday October 16 and if you are a Chicago Urbanite follower via this blog, Facebook or Twitter, you can win a pair of tickets!

Just  send an email to claudia@chicagourbanite.com.  The winner will be selected randomly and notified via email.

GOOD LUCK!

Indian Bhangra Meets Celtic Irish tonight at Dehli 2 Dublin Concert!

How does a fusion of Indian and Irish rhythms sound? Like mixing mangoes with onions? Well, let me tell you: add a little bit of electronica to it and this fusion is da bomb! So, if you are free tonight come check out Delhi 2 Dublin, a Canadian world music group that plays an energetic mix of Indian Bhangra and Celtic music. I saw them perform live a few years ago and had lots of fun at their concert. Tonight’s show is at SPACE in Evanston at 7:30. Click here for more details of the show and to buy tickets.

If you want to learn more about the band, keep on reading. The band was kind enough to answer to some of my questions:

Please tell us about the band’s background: How did you come up with the idea of mixing Indian Bhangra and Irish music? What have you learned from this collaboration?
Basically, the band started as a happy accident in 2006 when the then programmer of Vancouver’s Celtic Festival asked Tarun (one of the band members) to “put something together.” The result was a 15 minute piece that mashed up Irish dancing with fiddle over electronic beats with a dose of Punjabi lyrics and Indian percussion and funny enough it was also a representation of Tarun’s heritage – half Punjabi and half Irish/Scottish. It’s hard to generalize what our music is about since the topics change from song to song but we do like to keep things on the electronic party tip, we find the energy created at our shows can do more than our most meaningful song. I feel the most important thing we have learned is how much work has to go into a project for it to be remotely successful and also how far a little lucky break can take you. I guess we have also learned how to be incredibly honest with each other. Oh and also how difficult it can be to write something simple and catchy!

The band has performed in Chicago before. Is there anything new you are bringing to Chicago this year?
Our set is continuously changing and so is the way we perform the older material, we’re constantly changing arrangements and stuff plus, we’ve got a bunch of new material. We’re also touring with Jaron Freeman Fox on the fiddle and guitar and his energy and playing style are sick to hear and watch.

Do you see any difference about the way cultural diversity is perceived in Canada versus the United States?
Yes, definitely, but with so many factors to consider it makes a direct comparison between the two countries very difficult, especially since there are such big regional differences within each respective country. This is a conversation on its own that could be discussed in great length.

Why should we go see your show?
Good old fashioned sweat-up-a-storm kinda good vibes!

Photo credit: Josli Rockafella The Commodore, Vancouver, BC (2011)
Photo credit: Josli Rockafella The Commodore, Vancouver, BC (2011)

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 deephousepage.com.

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!

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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

 

 

Dance Flash Mob happening this Saturday

After a few months of silence, I am back ready to continue help you discover cool dance and music activities happening in Chicago. Talking about dancing in Chicago, I know many of you are interested in dance flash mobs, so I want to pass along this information. Flash Mob America is coming to Chicago on April 25 for a marriage proposal flash mob. They are recruiting people to dance with them. If you are interested, then register here to join: Http://goo.gl/VCkPi

Also, I want to invite all of you to a party on May 4 at 10 pm that will celebrate dance/popular music from the 80s, 90s, and beyond in English in Spanish. It is called Party of the Americas! This is a costume-optional party, so feel free to dress as one of your favorite singers from the 80s and 90s or wear the fashion of the era. Be creative and have gun doing it! Click here to RSPV
Location: Little Bucharest Bistro 3661 N Elston Chicago
No Cover

Do you want to have your favorite song added to the playlist? Leave a comment here and we will pass it along to our DJ.

Hope to see you there!

Join a dance flashmob in Chicago on Valentine’s Day

On the day of Love, show some love and join this dance flashmob to stop violence against women. Rosetta Magdalen from Flamenco Chicago Dance Studio LLC is organizing this event as part of a global initiative called “One Billion Rising”.  V-Day, the organization behind this initiative, is inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. According to their website:

By being a part of One Billion Rising we will all discover our solidarity and the scope of this issue. We will come to know that ending violence against women is important and it is not a local issue or particular to any culture or religion. We will come to see what is possible. When One Billion bodies rise and dance on 14 February 2013, we will join in solidarity, purpose and energy and shake the world into a new consciousness.

The event will take place  this Thursday, Feb. 14 at Union Station with flash mob occurring at 5 and 5:30pm. There is a rehearsal today from 2pm to 4pm at Flamenco Chicago Studio (2914 W. Belmont Ave. Chicago). If you can’t make it to rehearsal, here is the video you can use to rehearse the choreography at home:

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And this is the song that will be used for the dance flashmob around the world:

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Want to participate?  Visit the Facebook event page for details: https://www.facebook.com/events/483715515001164/

In addition to this flashmob there are other events happening in Chicago. Click here for additional information.

 

Strike Dance Rise
Strike Dance Rise

RECOMMENDED FOR FEBRUARY

Snow finally arrived! I hope the cold weather does not stop you from checking some cool events going on in Chicago. Here are my suggestions:

Feb 7:  I will be moderating the fist panel discussion for “The Art of Business: Making a Living from your Music” series. The Chicago Sinfonietta is proud to present a monthly Thursday evening discussion series offering insight from industry professionals to continue to nourish a vibrant music community in Chicago and provide an overview on the different aspects of the profession. Each panel discussion will be followed by Q&A and networking. Join this conversation to tackle a wide range of topics from playing for exposure, credit and recognition, income sources and opportunities, financial transparency, negotiating and more!  This a FREE event. RSVP here 

Feb 8: Tibetan and Modern Dance show in the spiritual pursuit of tranquility, balance, and happiness at Athenaeum Theatre. Click here for more information.

Feb 9: I will be celebrating Carnival with my band Nu Bambu at the Latin Street Dance Academy. Click here for more information.

Feb 12-17: Make plans to see some great Chicago theater productions during Chicago. Click here for more information.

Feb 14: On V-Day Chicago is joining One Billion Rising; walk out, dance and rise up against gender-based violence!http://chicagourbanite.net/2013/02/09/join-a-dance-flashmob-in-chicago-on-valentines-day/

Feb 16-17 FREE workshop to create papier mache alebrijes (Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures)http://ow.ly/hzzY2

Ongoing: The LunchBreak Series in the Randolph Café  of the Chicago Cultural Center has taken off! Wired Fridays is a series of LunchBreak concerts featuring DJs and electronic music. From ambient to dance, the world of DJs and soundscape artists will be uncovered each Friday through May. The LunchBreak Series will continue to feature music of all genres on Tuesdays and Thursdays. For more information visit www.chicagoculturalcenter.org

Feb 22: Sound Culture is presenting From the Arctic to the Middle East (Broken Narratives by an American Flamenco Dancer) by Wendy Clinard at Mayne Stage on Friday, Feb. 22 at 8PM. Click here for more information

My TV interview with Chota Madre for CAN TV

Do you know there is a TV channel that belongs to the people of Chicago and gives every Chicagoan a voice on cable television? Did you know that it provides video training, facilities and channel time?  I am talking about Chicago Access Network Television, or CAN TV. This is an independent nonprofit organization that administers and promotes the use of Chicago’s public access channels. CAN TV’s five local, non-commercial channels reach one million viewers in the city of Chicago and is recognized as one of the finest access centers in the country. Cable companies provide support for CAN TV as part of franchise commitments in the City of Chicago. Its programs are over 90% local, helping viewers find jobs, locate HIV/AIDS and domestic violence counseling, access art and educational resources, interact with local public officials, and experience a diversity of viewpoints.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of hosting my first episode of CAN TV’s show Perspectivas Latinas, a weekly English/Spanish-language forum. My guests were the Director of Pachacamak Folk Foundation, Carmen Edith Freeze, an enthusiastic promoter of Ecuadorian culture in Chicago,  and New York band Chota Madre, a band that promotes Afro-Ecuadorian music out of Ecuador.  Here is the English version of the show:

If you want to see more of this awesome band, don’t miss their last show in Chicago tonight at Multikulti. You can find more information about this show here. Also,  if you are a Chicagoan, I would highly recommend connecting to  CAN TV as  a viewer, as a producer, or as someone who believes in the right of free expression. This channel is true democracy in action!