Starting tonight, the Skirball Cultural Center kicks off its fifteenth annual Sunset Concerts series. It takes place over six consecutive Thursday evenings from July 21 through August 25, at 8:00 p.m., free of charge, in the Skirball’s festive outdoor courtyard.
The 2011 Sunset Concerts season features an eclectic line-up of artists representing music from around the globe: Maria de Barros (July 21), the West Coast premiere of Red Baraat (July 28), Yemen Blues (August 4), Nuriya (August 11), Thomas Mapfumo and The Blacks Unlimited (August 18), and Mr. Vallenato (August 25).
The spirit of welcome that brings world music fans from all over Southern California to the Skirball each summer spills over into the concert experience itself: friends and families share picnics, fans bring their own instruments and join in, and jubilation and dancing fill the courtyard through the night.
Tonight I will be there when Maria de Barros performs, and look forward to experiencing the joyful musical traditions of her native Cape Verde. Through her work, de Barros expresses the important influence that French culture and music have had on her life growing up in West Africa. In addition to the African- and Latin-inflected coladeiras and bluesy mornas common to Cape Verdean music, de Barros also takes inspiration from the music of Spain, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
On Thursday, July 28, Sunset Concerts continue with the West Coast premiere of Red Baraat. MC and Master dhol (North Indian drum) player Sunny Jain founded Red Baraat in celebration of sounds he remembers from childhood trips to his parents’ native India, along with the rock and ska he grew up loving. Melding the infectious Punjabi rhythm known as Bhangra with a funk reminiscent of New Orleans brass, the critically hailed New York–based ensemble mesmerizes audiences with its powerful and joyous live show.
Founded by rising star and charismatic Yemenite Israeli vocalist Ravid Kahalani and arranger/bassist Omer Avital, the nine-member Yemen Blues plays an ebullient mix of traditional Yemenite Jewish melodies, American blues, jazz, funk, and West and North African grooves on Thursday, August 4.
On Thursday, August 11, Nuriya combines sizzling Spanish vocals with rumba flamenco, Afro-Cuban drumming, Arabic melodies, Gypsy brass, and rhythms from the Middle East and the Caribbean. Born in Mexico City into a Jewish Middle Eastern and Latin family, the lively young singer studied Afro-Cuban music in Cuba and Hebrew and Arabic melodies in Israel. At the Skirball, Nuriya takes the stage backed by a stellar multinational ten-piece ensemble.
Widely revered in his homeland as the “Lion of Zimbabwe,” Thomas Mapfumo brings the protest music he invented known as Chimurenga (which means “revolutionary struggle” in Shona) to the Skirball on Thursday, August 18. His compositions mix traditional Shona mbira (thumb piano) music with Western rock and other modern genres. Even as they decry social injustice, political oppression, the AIDS crisis, and domestic violence, Mapfumo’s uplifting, upbeat, and danceable songs celebrate the human spirit and speak to the universal need for freedom.
The 2011 Sunset Concerts season concludes on Thursday, August 25, with Jorge Villarreal (a.k.a. Mr. Vallenato), the renowned Mexican American accordion virtuoso who brings to the stage his lifelong and deep love for Colombian folk music, including cumbia and vallenato.
Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
(310) 440-4500 · www.skirball.org
FREE ADMISSION; no reservations
Limited seating on a first-come, first-served basis
Parking: $10 per car (cash only). Carpooling is encouraged.
Street parking is strictly prohibited.
Or take Metro Rapid 761.
MARIA DE BARROS
Thursday, July 21, 8:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)
Thursday, July 28, 8:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)
Thursday, August 4, 8:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)
Thursday, August 11, 8:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)
THOMAS MAPFUMO AND THE BLACKS UNLIMITED
Thursday, August 18, 8:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)
Thursday, August 25, 8:00 p.m. (Doors open at 7:00 p.m.)
All Skirball galleries (except Noah’s Ark) are free and open until 10:00 p.m. during Sunset Concerts, including the popular exhibitions Houdini: Art and Magic and Masters of Illusion: Jewish Magicians of the Golden Age. Zeidler’s Café’s dinner buffet, starts at 6:00 p.m. Reservations are required and can be made starting two weeks prior to the Thursday evening concert by calling (310) 440-4575. Lighter fare can be purchased at Zeidler’s Cart. Guests may bring their own picnic dinners. Note: No outside alcoholic beverages or chairs are permitted.
About the Skirball
The Skirball Cultural Center is dedicated to exploring the connections between 4,000 years of Jewish heritage and the vitality of American democratic ideals. It welcomes and seeks to inspire people of every ethnic and cultural identity. The Skirball Cultural Center achieves its mission through educational programs that explore literary, visual, and performing arts from around the world; through the display and interpretation of its permanent collections and changing exhibitions; through an interactive family destination inspired by the Noah’s Ark story; and through outreach to the community. The Skirball is also home to Zeidler’s Café, which serves innovative California cuisine in an elegant setting, and Audrey’s Museum Store, which sells books, contemporary art, music, jewelry, and more. Call (310) 440-4500 or visit www.skirball.org.