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First of all, a commercial break for Louisville Music News, for which I've had the privilege of writing for (can it be?) over three years now. Let me be bold in saying right out that Louisville Music News is the only publication in Louisville that is able to dedicate itself to covering all music and musicians in the City, whether they've achieved celebrity 'lift-off' or not. This is the concept with which LMN all got started.
And this is of such importance to the arts because of course nothing attracts fame like fame (and nothing attracts obscurity like obscurity); and no one, no artist, can attract anything like regional, national, or international acclaim until they have established some local presence. (Although there is one notable exception to this that I'm aware of, that I'll get to in just a minute.)
To get booked into venues where people can attend and hear a musician or musical group usually requires (guaranteed) ticket sales, which in turn require the pre-existence of a fair-sized interest group in that type of music. But how to get the awareness, which will generate the interest, which will sell the tickets, which will give the concert promoters the confidence they need to book them into their clubs, festivals, etc.? It's a head-scratcher.
Musicians need that crucial commercial break, if they are to stay with their developing art and not have to bail out for endeavors that are more commercial.
We've all experienced what musicians trying to launch themselves face, such as when you're just starting out in life and need to get a credit card so you can get in over your head shopping online, how do you 'establish credit' so you can get one? A lot of things you might apply for, you're likely to told, 'Um, don't think so – you have no credit history.' So how goes one get 'credit history' without any previous credit history? Eventually, of course, we all do get that first credit break, which gives us a chance to prove ourselves – and then more offers come. But – speaking of debts – a debt of gratitude is owing to those generous and break-giving souls who give us that first chance.
Now to the Exception To The Rule I was telling you about: three years ago, while writing an online piece for LMN ('Ouroboros: Music of the River & Roads – or, Lone Men with Guitars,' about banjo roots musician Jayme Stone's visit to Louisville along with Griot Mansa Sissoko, a court musician to the Royal family in Mali) – anyway, while researching that article, I came across a Welsh musician of Jewish descent whose instrument was the ancient lyre (and whose music was ancient music for the lyre), by the name of Michael Levy. I got to find out more about Michael and his music in online exchange with him and mentioned him again in an article I did two years ago entitled, 'Sumer is a-Cumen In (aka, Come Away With Me ...),' about the international music scene in our neighbor-State of West Virginia (a place where antiquity in all things is especially treasured).
Now, Michael is something of a genius (I mean, where on earth do you come up with the music for 'Hurrian Hymn No. 6,' and the knowledge of how it used to sound and how you should play it, and the proper music to play it on and the skill to play the thing the way it should be played? But Michael has, and he is admired by a close circle of musicologists knowledgeable in ancient music.) But Michael has the opposite problem of most musicians: while he has garnered an international cult following through both YouTube and his self-produced (though you couldn't tell they are 'homemade') albums (of which he has done some twenty-and-counting at this point), albums that he has been selling primarily through CD Baby and iTunes since 2006, neither in his home country nor even in his home region locally, is he known much at all. And this is the more remarkable in that he hails from a much smaller country than our own, one where there seems to be a festival or a musical venue covering about every square inch of the UK, all year long.
In the fall of 2012, when Louisville singer-songwriter Brigid Kaelin was living in the UK, I introduced the two of them through FB) – so Michael is developing some ties to people here. At that time Michael wasn't able to travel, but in the couple years since he has become able to do that a bit more and has developed more self-confidence with regard to making public appearances before life audience. Now he has gotten some wonderful gigs for himself that he's been doing, such as performing on the ancient lyre at the Roman Baths in the City of Bath, UK, while wearing a Roman toga. Plus, he has struck a deal with the British Museum in London, where he will now be able to sell his CDs.
Wouldn't it be great if we could convince him to come here at some point? Wow! Talk about once-in-a-lifetime! Michael's music has been out of the mainstream for thousands of years, in some cases. But, through him, ancient melodies, on the instruments they devised and knew and listened to, can reach modern ears, and reach out across the centuries and touch our souls, again.
Other ways in which LMN has been the catalyst for musical exchange out into, and in from, the world is that one of our own: Indialuca, a Kathak-Flamenco fusion band (how's that for exciting and different?) is putting together a North American tour, through the Northeastern US and Canada, for 2014; and a popular vocal group out of San Francisco, Kitka (Eastern European-style locals, all women), is putting one together that will bring them into the Southeastern US in 2014 or 2015.
Just here locally, this month, there is a lot going on international-musically in Louisville – first of all there is the Americana Festival (which is being held this year at Iroquois Park Amphitheatre instead of at the Americana Center). Jared Zarentanello, its impresario, has done an excellent job of coordinating musicians for the recordings he is doing (he's putting together a CD, hopefully for sharing and for sale) and for his homemade radio station. He is a busy guy, and he and his wife are off to London for a while, but despite time pressure they did not abandon us before setting out without putting together this yearly event that we all look forward to.
And, for a chance to see and hear not just local artists' recreations and interpretations of international music, but authentic refugee musicians and dancers, of any festival in the year the not just one, but two that afford the greatest opportunities for that – are also coming up, June being the month when World Refugee Day falls: KRM's World Refugee Day Picnic Thursday, June 20th (for further, call 502-479-9180), at 969-B Cherokee Rd ; 10:30am – 1:30pm); and the World Refugee Celebration, on Friday, June 21st, on W Market St) - 9am-noon (which is, to my mind, possibly the best little-known immigrant music celebration in the City), taking place at St. Anthony's, at 2234 W Market St (for Catholic Charities) – WITH FREE LUNCH from around the world provided.
The Catholic Charities event at 9 am on a Friday morning (yes, you will need to be there 9 a.m. on a Friday morning), is where you can get to see some of the world's most elusive music: from Myanmar/Burma, Afghanistan, Cuba, Congo, Burundi, Iraq, Bhutan, Nepal, and even others. Even the Dalai Lama on his visit didn't get to see our local performers from the immigrant Buddhist and Himalayan communities perform – but those of us who take Catholic Charities up on their offer can.
There will also be a Trinidad Showcase, hosted by local Trinidad artist Alexander King (now in his 70s) at the Iroquois Public Library. (And, while on the subject, just going and hanging out at the Iroquois Public Library on a Saturday afternoon is a very likely place to get to know some of our City's immensely interesting immigrant residents, and vice versa, as there is a class in English language that is tutored there every week, for which any of who are conversant in English can volunteer).
Finally, I really recommend to you the monthly CoffeeStop series that Keith Clements, the former LMN Blues columnist, puts on at the Bardstown Presbyterian Church. For that, Vento Winds (which does Andean/Classical hybrid) will be playing on Sunday, June 23rd at 7pm. The Church is located at 1722 Bardstown Rd., Louisville, USA.
Vento Winds, which is headed by Penelope Quesada, is a classical group, comprised principally of flautists, that combines a classical section with Latin and Andean pieces. Theirs is a very neat idea, to meld the sounds of classical flute with Pan Flute. Vento Winds has been around for about five years, under different names – and in earlier incarnations more featured the Pan Pipes (and also occasionally Peruvian dancers). In their current version, they are a little more pitched toward the classical honed, but they have not lost their hallmark, beautiful poignancy.
Now Louisville gets its commercial break: this City is wonderful for its abundance of local talent and, even beyond that, it's all heart: people get out there and put on the shows. There are lots of events – so many to (have to) choose from. We're really wealthy (and so lucky) in that respect. And people turn out. Perhaps LV's greatest and strongsrt suit, among so many one could choose from to name, is its flair for partying down (but you know that).
The downside (and, yes, even to this there is a downside): with so much going on, attendance at events that people have poured their hearts into, and their second-to-few-or-none talents, can be slender.
Which gives us all the civic and cultural responsibility, My Fellow Louisvillians (speechmaking here), to spread ourselves around to both get, and give, that coveted, crucial exposure to groups and types of musical events that take us away from our more accustomed pleasures and inclinations – and thus give us the chance to develop some new addictions.
So I would like to thank you all, our readership and our advertisers, for giving your support to Louisville Music News, so that it can give its support to Louisville's finest sounds. And – even more important – for checking out all the great music this super little City has to offer.
(And thanks to all my readers for tuning in to TerraBeat and giving me a chance to introduce you all to some of our city's international artists. It has been a privilege and an honor to get to do that.)