3Arts Campaign: Bamako*Chicago Sound System by Nicole Mitchell


In a Nutshell

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. In 2014-15 I had the opportunity to collaborate with West African kora master, Ballaké Sissoko in France and it was one of the most musically transformative experiences of my life. Without words there was great musical understanding between Ballaké and his friends and the Black Earth Ensemble group that I lead. It was magic and opened doors for cultural learning between us. I’m one of many African American artists who romanticize a connection to African culture, but a lot of that is in the dream world. To witness that connection being made real, to have a musical conversation with artists who care as much about music as we do, is something truly special. Ever since that experience, I’ve wanted to bring Ballaké and his group to Chicago in order to further this musical collaboration and share it with others in our city, including young people who may never before have heard the rich traditions of Malian music.

With Bamako*Chicago Sound System, I am raising funds to support an extended stay and expansive programming with Ballaké 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. In today’s world, we all know the importance of creating opportunities and platforms that promote understanding between cultures and keep our hearts open to welcoming new friends from other parts of the world. Music is a perfect way for sharing stories. With a project of this scale, we’ve made some great strides already such as securing funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and a partnership with Ravinia Festival’s “Guest Artists in the Classroom” series. But we need more help and would love for you to jump on our train and be a part of this adventure. Thank you for helping to make this project the best it can possibly be!

The Full Story...

This project will bring three amazing Malian musicians to Chicago, including kora player Ballaké Sissoko, balafonist Fassery Diabete, and vocalist Fatima Kouyaté. Working in Mali’s griot tradition, Ballaké is an artist from a musical lineage that carries countless stories of families from his home region.  He and his group will stay in Chicago during September 14-26. While here, they will share their musical gifts and children’s songs with youth in Chicago Public Schools, we will hold open rehearsals at Hamilton Park, and Ballaké and I will do a special presentation open to all audiences. We will also work closely with the Black Earth Ensemble to develop a new piece of music that interweaves sounds of the Chicago jazz legacy and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) with traditional Malian sounds and culture.  

We will videotape the workshops and rehearsals and the performance with a goal of producing a documentary that captures the stories and experiences that emerge from this unique cultural exchange. The project will culminate with the world premiere of the new music at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on September 23, 2017 in partnership with the City of Chicago’s World Music Festival.

At this point, we are excited about what our collaboration will sound like and what discoveries we will make. We hope you will join us on this journey that inspires a new musical conversation and a cultural collision that can unite audiences of jazz, world music, and Black culture. 

Olivia JunellComment