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:

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TONIGHT: CELEBRATE CINCO DE MAYO WITH NUBAMBU AT THE ABBEY PUB

ImageLooking for a place to dance to original and contagious music? Then come see us perform tonight at The Abbey Pub (3420 W Grace Chicago). NUBAMBU is a Chicago Urban Fusion band whose sounds are as diverse as its cross-cultural musicians. We will get you to dance with our unique and highly contagious danceable Latin-Reggae rhythms. Our influences range from all different corners of the world and blend together in an original Chicago style urban fusion sound. The band members are from France, Venezuela, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, the United States, and Peru. Our music is multilingual, street-smart, and has cutting-edge lyrics with a twist that fuse together different styles. Doors open at 8pm ad shows starts at 11pm. $7 in advance and $10 at the door. Buy your tickets here. Click here for more information about the band and the other bands playing at this event.

Video of 2012 Grammy Award Winner Tinariwen in Chicago

Congratulations to Tinariwen for their well-deserved Grammy award!  Tinariwen took home the Best World Music Album Grammy for ‘Tassili”.’To celebrate, I  made this video of their last hypnotizing performance in Chicago (November 2011).

This is a sweet victory that comes during times of war in their country. Our thoughts go to Tinariwen’s families and friends in the North of Mali and to the Tuareg refugees in Niger, Mauritanie, Algeria, and Burkina Faso. Here is a video of Tinariwen singing during a Tuareg tea ceremony in the Sahara Desert.

When the Desert meets the Blues: Tinariwen in Concert

What do you get when you mix electric guitars with the sound of indigenous Touareg music made by guitar poets and soul rebels from the Sahara desert? The answer is Tinariwen, a band that was founded in the 1980s by nomadic Touareg musicians/rebel fighters from the Southern Sahara Desert in Mali. Yes, at one point in their lives, some of the band members used firearms to defend their people, but these days they use guitars to express their aspirations, and they do it superbly. The band stopped by in Chicago last Friday for a live performance at Metro and to promote their fifth album titled Tassili. A musician friend of mine told me about their music and how great they were, so I knew they were going to be good, but I did not expect them to be amazing.These guys are super talented. Friday concert was my first encounter with their music but it certainly won’t be the last: I am hooked.

The guys from Tinariwen took the stage wearing clothes “à la Touareg”: loose-fitting robes and except for Ibrahim Ag Alhabib, the lead guitar and founder of the band, they had veils covering their heads and hair, some even with their faces covered. Tinariwen means “the Deserts” in Tamashek (the language of the Touareg), and like their name, their music has some of the qualities associated with a dessert: it is mysterious, hypnotic, undulating, inviting you to fall into a trance-like state. Their psychedelic sound is dominated by electric guitar and bass playing mixed with traditional percussion instruments. Some people call it Desert Blues. For their new album though, they opted for acoustic sounds, so an acoustic guitar was also part of the mix. The guitars played a preponderant role during the concert, but the bass and the percussion players stole the show at many points. Those guys are monsters! Complementing the talent of the guitar, bass, and percussion players was the singing in Tamashek that felt at times like mantras for meditation, and the undulating dance movements of one of the band members. His movements reminded me of the movements of the sand dunes in a desert. The crowd (including myself) could not help but fall under their spell.

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The use of modern electric guitars to play traditional Tuareg music along with their enormous talent are probably the reasons why Tinariwen’s music resonates so well with Western audiences. But seeing them perform live, I can also say that part of their success is due to how well they connect with their audience during live shows.The way they do it is elegant. The band members established musical dialogues with each other and with the audience so effortlessly and smoothly, that it gave the impression that they were jamming among friends instead of being on stage. This was coolness at its best.   And people responded to this. The crowd that came to see them at Metro was very enthusiastic. I saw a young woman moving frenetically to the rhythm of their music throughout the entire concert. On the other side of the theater, and probably two generations apart, an older lady in her sixties was stomping and screaming, asking for the band to do a third encore, which they generously did. There was also a three-year old boy being carried by her young dad saying enthusiastically: Tinariwen is playing! The band has definitely crossed generational and cultural barriers with their music.

This was the second time they performed in Chicago this year, and after attending their concert this last Friday, I can understand why they would come two times the same year: it is a love relationship. The crowd fed the band with an incredible energy, and in return, they played three encores and shouted “I love Chicago!” in various occasions during the show. For those of you who have not had the pleasure to hear their music, you should fix that a.s.a.p. Here is a sample of it:

Flamenco with a Chicagoan flavor: An Open Heart conversation with singer and composer Patricia Ortega’s from Las Guitarras de Espana

A few days ago I had the pleasure to have an open-heart conversation with Chicagoan singer and composer Patricia Ortega from Las Guitarras de Espana. I met Patty during my flamenco studies at Wendy Clinard’s Studio. I had the chance to dance to her beautiful singing during Wendy’s open houses, but I had no idea that she was also a composer. I was greatly impressed when she told me she is about to release a CD that is featuring her work in collaboration with Las Guitarras de Espana. The album is titled “Tantas Cosas” (So Many Things), and as the title indicates, this CD has many musical styles that reflect Chicago’s rich cultural diversity. Patty took the forefront on this CD, and taking Spanish guitar as the foundation, the compositions are spiced up with touches borrowed from African, Brazilian, Arab, Indian, Funk, and Rap genres. Patty herself is the product of cultural fusion: She was born and raised in Chicago, but her mom is from Mexico and her dad from Cuba, and as a child, the family parties were infused with Mexican Folk music, Cuban Son, and Flamenco. She mentions that pop, rock, R&B, Mexican ranchera, and artists such as Cafeta Cuba, Ojos de Brujo, Chambuco, Concha Buika, Lila Downs, and Michael Jackson are the inspiration for her compositions.

Patty also borrowed excerpts from her own personal journey during the last two years to write the songs for this album. She has lived “tantas cosas” so intensely during this time that she had plenty of inspiration to create. The CD is a journal in which love is the main protagonist. Patty has poured her heart in these compositions and writes about the joy of being in love, of the sadness of unrequited love, of the pain felt when a relationship ends, of the tender love that a mother feels for her daughter, and also about learning to love unconditionally and live in the present moment. Here are some songs from the CD for your enjoyment:

Tantas Cosas

Dos Besos

No Me Queda Mas

Cada Dia

Alegria de las Ninas

You can buy the CD at www.the guitarsofspain.com. Also, if you would like to be part of the CD release party, then go to Mayne Stage this Saturday June 4 at 7:30 pm. The show promises to be amazing. There will be 25 performers on stage, including Las Guitarras de Espana large ensemble, dancers and guest artists such as Satya, Silvia Manrique from Beaba do Samba, and New-York based Alfonso Cid and his flamenco rock band Dientes de Caramelo. You can get tickets to the show here.

Wanna win a Free CD of TANTAS COSAS? Then visit my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/chicagourbanite), post “I LIKE CHICAGO URBANITE” on my wall, and have your friends comment on your post saying that they were referred by you. Winner is the one getting the most comments. Contest ends tomorrow June 2nd at 10 am. Good luck!