As a musician, I’ve dreamed for years about bringing two artistic communities together: Chicago’s modern jazz with the traditional sounds and instrumentation of Bamako, Mali. With Bamako*Chicago Sound System, I am raising funds to support an extended stay and expansive programming with West African kora master, Ballaké Sissoko and his group. This will include visiting youth in Chicago Public Schools, conducting a workshop for Chicago musicians, and developing a new collaborative musical piece with the Black Earth Ensemble that will premiere this fall at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival.
For years, the genre-bending flutist Nicole Mitchell has dreamed of collaborating with musicians from Mali.
The mystical sounds of the balafon and kora — akin to the marimba and harp — caught her ear when she was a student at Oberlin Conservatory in the late 1980s, even before she became a leading Chicago instrumentalist-bandleader in the 1990s.
After she left the city in 2011 to teach at the University of California at Irvine, she hoped to overcome formidable obstacles of geography, funding and genre to play with Malian counterparts.
Come September, Mitchell's long-delayed aspirations will be realized in Chicago, thanks to a unique convergence of support from the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, World Music Festival Chicago, Ravinia Festival and MacArthur Foundation.