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Date & Time

Saturday, September 23, 2017
3:00 PM


Logan Center, Performance Hall



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Logan Center


At this year’s festival, Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble will perform a commissioned work, BAMAKO*CHICAGO SOUND SYSTEM, with Malian musicians Ballaké Sissoko, Fassery Diabaté, and Fatim Kouyate. This performance is co-presented with the World Music Festival with support from the MacArthur Foundation International Fund.

Flautist and composer NICOLE MITCHELL formerly served as the first woman president of the AACM and has been a member since 1995. She was named “Chicagoan of the Year” by the Chicago Tribune in 2006, received the Alpert Award in the Arts in 2011, and received the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award in 2012. In addition, Nicole has been commissioned by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Ravinia Festival, the Chicago Jazz Festival, and others, and has been featured in outlets including NPR, Ebony, Downbeat, JazzIz, and Jazz Times. She is currently a professor of music at the University of California, Irvine, where she teaches in a new MA/PhD program called Integrated Composition, Improvisation, and Technology. Her group Black Earth Ensemble is a musical celebration of the African American cultural legacy. As a woman-directed, co-ed, multi-generational group, BEE aims to reach a range of emotional spaces rarely expressed in a traditional jazz setting.

Kora player BALLAKÉ SISSOKO was born to a family of djéli, musician-storytellers of the Mandingo culture similar to griots. Although the son of a musician, his father did not want him to become a musician, so Ballaké is self-taught in the kora. After the death of his father, he joined the Mali Instrumental Ensemble when he was 13 years old. In his thirties, Ballaké began playing with another Malian kora player, Toumani Diabeté, and also created a group called Mandé Tobolo. After befriending cellist and bassist Vincent Segal at a jazz festival in Amiens, he and Vincent recorded the albums Chamber Music in 2009 and Music Night in 2015.

Balafon player and guitarist FASSERY DIABATÉ grew up around the raging cadence of the balafon, as his father was a skilled player of the instrument. In this environment, Fassery began playing balafon and guitar at the age of seven. Since then, he has founded a band called Lanaya with his cousin Lojibril Brabaté, toured with Ballaké Sissoko, and played with a wide range of other artists, including Kayes Khasso Habub Roité, Ami Koïta, Tata Baubo, Louis Divigs Cimaudi, and Taj Mahal. He also played on Ballaké Sissoko and Vincent Segal’s two albums, Chamber Music and Night Music.

Singer FATIM KOUYATÉ comes from a famous griot family in Mali. At an audition with the Rokia Traoré Foundation, Fatim was selected for the foundation’s Konoya vocal training program. Since then, she has performed as a singer in France and Mali, most recently collaborating with the hip-hop musician Master Soumy.