The Massachusetts Cultural Council is presenting a showcase concert featuring the excellence and diversity of music and dance traditions thriving in Massachusetts today. Performers are past or current recipients of an Artist Fellowship or Traditional Arts Apprenticeship, prestigious awards from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Come experience a Dominican carnival procession, then be enthralled by leading exponents of South Indian vocals, violin, and percussion, West African balafon (xylophone), djembe drum, and ceremonial dance, and Irish flute, uilleann pipe and old style step dance.

The Asociación Carnavalesca de Massachusetts brings a bit of Dominican Carnival to the United States. Spanish, African, and Catholic influences helped shape this Dominican carnival tradition of dancing lechones (piglets) and diablos cojuelos (limping devils). Led by Stelvyn Mirabal, these elaborately costumed masqueraders take part in Lawrence’s annual Dominican Parade.

Carnatic music of South India is one of the oldest music systems in the world. Built upon talas (rhythmic cycles) and ragas (melodic scales), Carnatic music is aurally transmitted. Tara Anand Bangalore (violin and vocals) learned directly from prominent gurus (teachers) in Delhi. She is one of the most sought after teachers of Carnatic music in the Boston area. 

Gaurishankar Chandrashekhar is an accomplished performer and dedicated teacher of the mridangam, the double-headed drum used in Carnatic music. He learned under the guidance of Sri. K. Kalyana Krishan of Mumbai, who was a prime disciple of Tanjore Upendran. Recipients of MCC Traditional Arts Apprenticeships, Tara and Gaurish will share the stage with their apprentices Sudarshan Thirumalai, Pratik Bharadwaj, and Kaasinath Balaguranath.

Bharatanatyam dance is notable for its intricate footwork, hand gestures, and facial expressions. Dances are based on divine stories from epics and mythology well known to the South Asian community. Sridevi Ajai Thirumalai trained under Gurus Padmini Ramachandran, Narmada, and Rhadha in India. Having perormed extensively in India and the United States, she established the Natyamani School of Dance.In 2010, she was named a Finalist in the MCC Artist Fellowship Program.

The Irish tradition has deep roots in Massachusetts. Tunes once played at Irish crossroad dances traveled the ocean in the hearts, hands, and feet of Irish immigrants. Boston is known for its active scene of pub sessions, concerts, competitions, and classes.

Shannon Heaton (flute) is highly regarded in Irish traditional music circles for her beautifully expressive playing, composing, and dedication to teaching and promoting the music. She was fortunate to learn firsthand from musicians in Chicago’s rich traditional Irish music scene and later in repeated trips to County Clare, Ireland. In 2016, she was named a Traditional Arts Fellow in the MCC Artist Fellowship Program.

Joey Abarta teaches and performs on the uilleann pipes, the national bagpipe of Ireland. He is recognized for researching and performing in the old style of piping. In 2015, Abarta was awarded a Traditional Arts Apprenticeship to mentor aspiring piper Caroline O’Shea.

Accompanist Matt Heaton is an Irish guitar and bouzouki player who has performed on four continents. Matt has carved out a niche performing music for youngsters and their parents.

Kieran Jordan is a celebrated performer, teacher, and choreographer best known for her creative contributions to sean-nós (old style) Irish dance. Her organization, Kieran Jordan Dance, includes dance classes, a performance company, and an active artistic community that has been established in the Boston area for more than 15 years. In 2008, Kieran was awarded an MCC Artist Fellowship in the Traditional Arts. In 2011, she received an MCC Traditional Arts Apprenticeship to teach old-style Irish step dance.

MUSIC AND DANCE OF MALI, WEST AFRICA                              
In parts of Mali, West Africa, dance, music, and song are an integral part of everyday life. Birth, death, initiations, and marriage are all celebrated with specific dances and songs. Many musicians and dancers are hereditary artists, meaning they born into the tradition.

Balla Kouyaté is a master of the balafon, which he learned to play from his father in Mali before immigrating to Massachusetts in 2001. This West African antecedent of the xylophone is made up of wooden slats and naturally amplified by two rows of calabash gourds. Balla and his son Sekou were awarded a 2013 MCC Traditional Arts Apprenticeship.

Sidi Mohamed Camara grew up in Bamako, Mali surrounded by musicians, praise singers, and storytellers. He began his formal dance training with Mouvement Pionnier, working with several other companies before relocating to the United States in 1996. West African dance is performed by urban dance companies, but the dances are taken out of context and no longer part of the ceremonies they originally accompanied. Joh’s dance research has taken him all over Mali to study and preserve dances that are unique to specific villages. Joh and his son Tiemoko are just completing a 2017 MCC Traditional Arts Apprenticeship.

Tickets: $20 general admission