“…And then the Elders started jamming!” My daughter Lucia is telling me about the potluck she hosted in her tiny Rogers Park apartment for the Elders, musicians from Ghana, Argentina, Jordan, Serbia, and Thailand. Each brought a dish from their home country. Lucia’s contribution was a spicy Mexican red pepper soup, but the real star was the Jordanian baba ghanoush with yellow pomegranates that Baha brought. Lucia and her partner Sam had been listening to and learning the stories and music of each of the Elders over the past year, and tonight for the first time the Elders were meeting each other. The interest they had in one another was powerful. “Jovan (from Serbia) and Baha (from Jordan) started exchanging philosophies within moments of meeting.”
Lucia posted a short video they took: “The music was just itching to jump onto the table, and before even finishing eating, they were all playing together. Serbian violinist jamming on Thai khaen tunes, Ghanaian keyboard player backing up Argentinian singer. Here is a little taste of it!”
Lucia spent a year riding a bike and carrying a fiddle around Central Europe – Greece, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Kosovo, Serbia, Turkey – on a musical pilgrimage. She came back to Chicago ravenous to hear the music of immigrants in this city. Together with Sam Hyson, she launched the Chicago Folklore Ensemble, to seek out stories and songs that are rarely heard across cultures and neighborhoods. They assembled a string quartet and a storyteller to perform the music and stories of the Elders.
At times like this, when immigration is a fraught political issue and detention and deportation are ever-present threats in immigrant families, hearing the Elders’ music and stories is balm for the City’s soul.
The set of performances run through November 8, beginning at 7:30 tomorrow night, at University of Chicago’s International House.