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Sample Track 1:
"Trabajala" from Roots Before Branches
Sample Track 2:
"Solo dos veces" from Roots Before Branches
Layer 2
Artist Mention

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Chicago Tribune, Artist Mention >>

Coming up on the second annual Afro-Caribbean Improvised Music Festival, organizer Omar Torres-Kortright isn't nervous. For him the success is that so many people have come together to help the micro-festival come into being — again. When talking about the festival, Torres-Kortright marvels at the resources and like-minded folks, promoters and venues across the city that organized around the idea of a little salsa festival of big ideas, which brings a handful of artists to Chicago for rare performances that celebrate sounds from across the Latin world and its diaspora. "When older people say, 'I haven't heard music like that since 20 years ago in Puerto Rico,' you know that's success," says Torres-Kortright. "What I hear is people saying that the music speaks to them." This year's festival began this week with performances by Pupy Cantor, as well as Henry Cole and the Afrobeat Collective, but wraps this weekend with two shows by Orquesta el Macabeo and an Afro-Latin record fair. "We see the complete spectrum of salsa fans," the promoter explains. "Those that are just there to enjoy the music, and then there are the guys who know all the moves and are cutting a rug. There are a lot of supporters from the jazz scene (and) world music fans. People who are in their 30s on up. I should say 50s on up because of the old-school salsa tradition that is represented. With that we are touching the heart of older people and fans." The festival's events are scattered across the metro area, as it works with several organizing partners, including the Old Town School of Folk Music and Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center. The festival was sparked by Torres-Kortright's work on the annual Tribute to the Improvisational Singer, which began at Old Town School almost a decade ago. Aguzate, the organization that Torres-Kortright co-founded to help promote Afro-Caribbean culture in Chicago, had been very salsa-focused in its mission, then decided to work on something more inclusive of the Afro-Latin world and the music of Peru and Brazil. Torres-Kortright says the inception was simple enough: "Salsa was born of jazz and the traditional rhythms of Puerto Rico and Caribbean, so we thought we'd put together something that was a night of jazz and the rest of the nights would be salsa, but with a progressive mentality." Torres-Kortright pitched it to other promoters and venues, and "everyone pitched in and was very interested in making it happen." As part of its community-sustaining mission, Torres-Kortright says the festival kept all ticket prices less than $15 and also made sure there were all-ages and free events so that there were no barriers. The festival culminates with the Afro-Latin Record Collectors' Fair and Exhibit, which will end with a traditional Puertorriqueno parranda, a Christmastime tradition in parts of the Latin world of a traveling hootenanny of sorts. "Being a small festival, we are never going to become mainstream," says Torres-Kortright. "But we are OK with being a small festival. We aren't looking to (fill) huge venues; we are looking to just have intimate experiences." 12/13/12 >> go there
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