Tuesday, March 8, 2011

This Week in Chicago - Musicians Without Borders: Howard Levy & Kinobe


“I´m just feeling very good about it, and very open to what our connection is going to bring”, says Kinobe, via phone and on his way to Uganda. I´m conversing with him because here in da Chi, we´re looking forward to a very special first-time collaboration when Chicago-based jazz harmonica and piano player Howard Levy and multi-instrumentalist Kinobe from Uganda - master musicians from two very different parts of the world – who will perform together at the Mayne Stage on March 10. For the first time ever!

Howard Levy

It all started last summer in Salina, Kansas, where their friendship was born when Levy played with his Trío Globo at the Smoky Hills River Festival, on the same stage and at an adjacent time to Kinobe and his group, Soul Beat Africa. Encouraged by their mutual agent, they will embark on this new creative journey in just a few days, and we will get to witness it.

Kinobe, who plays traditional instruments such as the kalengo, or “talking” drum; the kora, the 21-stringed harp-lute; the kalimba, or thumb piano; the adungu or bow-harp; the endongo, or African lyre, among others, has been a musician since childhood, and his pan-African rhythms are informed by growing up surrounded by the music of the courts of the Kingdom of Buganda.

Kinobe looks forward to a collaboration with Levy, and speaks with great admiration of Levy’s harmonica playing, “The first time I heard it, I thought, this is impossible, this is so crazy amazing!"

As to Levy, whom I also spoke with on the phone to get a preview as to what might happen when he and Kinobe join musical forces for the first time, he comments that he has for many years both been a fan of African music as well as engaged in collaborations with Chicago-based African musicians, such as Foday Musa Suso and his Mandingo Griot Society. Levy mentions he has also been affected by Africa as a
composer – for example, his piece “Camel Parade” is inspired in older African music from the Sahara region. He speaks of enjoying the complexity of the rhythms that he will encounter: “…there´s that casual relationship that African musicians have with rhythms, makes my head spin! No matter how sophisticated Western musicians think they are, there are still moments you wonder where you are…”

What will happen when the richly textured musical worlds of these two musicians collide? From the looks of the videos of their solo performances, the only thing that can be predicted is that it’s surely bound to be exciting, and beautiful. Kinobe affirms: “We will bring two worlds together, and create one world, which proves music is a global language. Because really, we do live in a global village.”

We’ll keep you posted as to the magic that ensues!

Catalina Maria Johnson

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