About the Artists
You and your students will meet New York City–based artists who represent three different musical genres and cultural traditions; many have reinvented these deeply rooted traditions to make them their own. Together, you will learn songs and dances that you will perform along with the artists during the digital concert experience at the end of your semester.
Fall 2020 Artists
Ilusha, Georgian Folk
Ilusha Tsinadze is a singer, guitarist, composer, and arranger born in Tbilisi, Georgia. After studying jazz in college, his passion shifted to the music of his homeland. In 2011, Ilusha released his debut album, Deda Ena (Mother Tongue), which featured his own distinctly personal interpretations of Georgian folk songs along with compositions of his own. The music video for his song “Mokhevis Kalo Tinao” went viral in Georgia and has since won him wide acclaim and national fame in the country. He has performed with his Brooklyn-based band around the world, allowing audiences to experience his emotional renditions of Georgia’s beautiful and little-known musical traditions.
Browse Unit: Georgian Folk with Ilusha
Martha, Native American
Martha Redbone is a leading singer-songwriter of American roots music, blending elements of funk and the blues with those from her Native American heritage. Her music is described as “a brilliant collision of cultures” by The New Yorker and “Earth, Wind, and Fire on the rez” by Native Peoples Magazine. Her album Skintalk is part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian as an example of contemporary Native American music. She is currently developing a musical theater piece commissioned by Joe’s Pub and The Public Theater based on her ancestry and her childhood in the Appalachian hills of Black Mountain, Kentucky.
Browse Unit: Native American with Martha
Bongi, South African Zulu
Singer, songwriter, choreographer, and dancer, Sbongiseni “Bongi” Duma has been in the cast of The Lion King on Broadway for more than a dozen years. He was nominated for a 2014–2015 Drama Desk Award for best music in a play (Generations). He has also worked as a composer, musical director, and choreographer for The Mighty Zulu Nation and Africa Africa. He performs his own music regularly with his band and with Uzalo, a Brooklyn-based music collective.
Browse Unit: South African Zulu with Bongi and Tshidi
Tshidi, South African Zulu
Tshidi Manye, born in Johannesburg, South Africa, made her Broadway debut in The Lion King in 2004 and continues to perform regularly in the role of Rafiki. She has also starred in the European and Japanese tours of Sarafina! and has appeared onstage with Paul Simon, David Byrne, and Hugh Masekela.
Browse Unit: South African Zulu with Bongi and Tshidi
Spring 2021 Artists
Villalobos Brothers, Son Jarocho
The Villalobos Brothers have been praised as one of today’s leading contemporary Mexican ensembles. Their original compositions and arrangements masterfully fuse and celebrate the richness of Mexican folk music with the intricate harmonies of jazz and classical music. The ensemble’s virtuosic performances have delighted audiences throughout Latin America, India, Russia, Canada, and in more than 30 states across the US. They have appeared at historic venues including New York’s Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The New Victory Theatre, and Apollo Theater, as well as San Francisco’s Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall and Los Angeles’s The Ford Theatres. They have performed for acclaimed festivals including the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival, Blue Note Jazz Festival, San Jose Jazz Fest, and Montreal Jazz Festival, and such major events as the Latin Grammy Awards, United Nation’s 60th Anniversary Celebration, and 66th FIFA Congress in Mexico City.
Browse Unit: Son Jarocho with the Villalobos Brothers
Julia, Sicilian Folk
Julia Patinella is a multilingual singer and songwriter based in Brooklyn. The daughter of Sicilian immigrants, she has immersed herself in the music of her ancestors as well as other Mediterranean musical genres. Her performances in such venues as the Kaufman Music Center and La Mama Theatre draw from this expansive repertoire, including both original and traditional music. She aims to preserve the legacy of storytelling inherited from those who came before her, as well as to unite communities cross-culturally through old protest songs made new. Her first album is slated for release in late 2020.
Browse Unit: Sicilian Folk with Julia
Etienne Charles has received critical acclaim for his exciting performances, thrilling compositions, and knack for connecting with audiences worldwide. Etienne brings a careful study of myriad rhythms from the French-, Spanish-, English-, and Dutch-speaking Caribbean to his compositions. His 2019 album Carnival: The Sound of a People Vol. 1 is an excursion into the varied acoustic sounds, grooves, chants, and rituals of Carnival from his native Trinidad and Tobago. In June 2012, he was written into the US Congressional Record for his musical contributions to Trinidad and Tobago and the world. In 2015, he was named a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in the Creative Arts. His work as a producer, composer, arranger, trumpeter, and percussionist on Petite Afrique, a collaboration with singer Somi, won Outstanding Jazz Album at the 2018 NAACP Image Awards. In 2018 he joined the world renowned SFJAZZ Collective. He currently serves as an associate professor of jazz trumpet at Michigan State University in East Lansing.
Browse Unit: Calypso with Etienne