For centuries the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has welcomed immigrants from all over the globe who have enriched our culture with their native traditions. In this concert, the Mass Cultural Council shines a spotlight on four of these vital artistic traditions. Folk traditions with deep roots, they are nourished by shoots of innovation, and continue to evolve. The music and dance you will experience reflect the vibrancy and diversity of expressive culture that is thriving in Massachusetts today.
We open with a traditional Chinese Lion Dance performed by members of Boston’s Gund Kwok Asian Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe, led by Sifu Cheng Imm Tan. Most commonly associated with Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations, the lion dance requires martial arts discipline, endurance, flexibility, and creativity. It is enacted by two dancers – one handles the lion’s head, while the other crouches beneath the tail. Together, while hidden under an 8-foot-long costume, the dancers mimic the movements of a lion. A Buddha figure representing a temple monk teases and leads the lion with a fan. The lion’s movements are accompanied by musicians playing a large drum, cymbals, and a gong.
Recent immigrants from Nepal will perform music of the Gandharvas, a musical caste whose music is passed on through generational lines. Historically, the Gandharva earned their living as traveling musicians, composing songs that brought news to villagers throughout Nepal’s mountainous region. Other songs are inspired by the sounds of nature and the beauty of the rural landscape.
The group features Shyam Nepali on sarangi (bowed string instrument), Sushil Gautam on murchunga (jaw harp) and madal (hand drum), Ranjan Budhathoki on bansuri (bamboo flute), and Raj Kapoor on madal. Kapoor will also perform the Lakhe Mask Dance, which is associated with Indra Jatra, a religious street festival that takes place each September in Nepal’s Kathmandu Valley. The masked demon represents an angry incarnation of the Hindu deity Shiva who comes to take away the bad things and bring good energy.
Vasilis Kostas grew up in Epirus, a region in northwest Greece. He was mentored by his grandfather, learning the old songs of Epirus. The indigenous music of the area was noted in the New York Times as the source of the world’s most beguiling folk music. Every summer, locals hold panegyria – multiday, music-filled religious festivals in which they mourn their losses and celebrate what remains.
Traditionally, the Greek laouto serves as an accompanying instrument and is strummed. In Vasilis’s hands, the instrument is transformed. He started adapting the complex melodic lines of the clarinet to the fretted laouto and went on to record and perform with living legend and master clarinetist Petroloukas Halkias. Vasilis’s innovative technique has opened up new horizons for the instrument in both the Greek traditional and jazz worlds. His original compositions draw on his Greek roots and explore other musical traditions of the Mediterranean. He will be accompanied by George Lernis, a percussionist originally from Cypress, and James Dale, a string bass player from Australia.
During intermission, an optional salsa lesson will be offered by Eli “Lady” Pabón. You might want to take advantage because the last group brings us the dance-inducing music of Latin American. Salsa enjoys worldwide popularity today, but its roots are in New York’s Spanish-speaking barrios, where it emerged in the early 1970s from a blend of Afro-Cuban song traditions, Puerto Rican rhythms, and big band jazz.
Led by Costa Rican vocalist Manolo Mairena and Venezulan trombonist Ángel Subero, Latin Logic aims to respect and maintain the tradition of old school salsa while fusing Latin Jazz and Afro Caribbean rhythms. Instrumentation includes congas, timbales, bongos, trombones, piano, and bass. The 7-piece band members hail from Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Their sound reflects musical influences from the Latin American music scenes thriving in Boston and New York.
Tickets: $20 general admission