This weekend at Flushing Town Hall: Noreum Machi and Mwenso & the Shakes

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Photo courtesy of Flushing Town Hall

Flushing Town Hall will present this coming weekend two exciting global music programs — Noreum Machi on Friday, a Korean percussion group that caps off the venue’s Lunar New Year celebrations, and Mwenso & the Shakes on Saturday, a blues, jazz and African music ensemble.

Noreum Machi specializes in the virtuosic percussion music known as Samul-nori and is the most widely recognized traditional music band in Korea. Founded in 1993, the group brings together traditional singing and powerful percussion in their musical and creative activities. The vibrant program includes spectacular percussion dialogues, haunting shamanic chants and entrancing acrobatic dances.

Flushing Town Hall is thrilled that Noreum Machi has traveled all the way from Korea to share its traditional percussion music with our audience,” said Executive and Artistic Director Ellen Kodadek. “Not only is the band the grand finale of our Lunar New Year programming, but it kicks off our own ‘#MarchMadness’ as the first of 18 programs in just 31 days.”

The award-winning group has performed in nearly 200 cities in 60 countries, earning global recognition as part of the official WOMEX (2014), CINARS (2016) and Mundial Montreal (2017) showcases.

Samul-nori was first introduced to the West in the late 1970s as a modernized adaptation of the ancient Pungmul-nori, a ritual of farmers that originated in shamanism and animism. Samul-nori means “play four objects” and is performed primarily with four traditional instruments: the Jang-gu, Buk, Jing and Kkwaenggwari. Each instrument represents different elements of nature — rain, clouds, wind and thunderstorms. Yin and yang are also reflected through the various sounds.

On Saturday, March 2, Mwenso & the Shakes will bring its unique fusion of African, Afro-American, jazz and blues music to Flushing Town Hall. The evening starts with a dance and groove workshop at 7 p.m., and continues with a concert at 8 p.m. 

Mwenso & the Shakes is a troupe of global artists who present music that merges the highest form of entertainment and artistry with a formidable repertoire of jazz, blues, African and Afro-American music. The international group draws inspiration from the stylings of Fats Waller, Muddy Waters, James Brown and many other American musical legends. Michael Mwenso leads electrifying performances that The New York Times calls “intense, prowling and ebullient.”

The band includes members from across the globe — Sierra Leone, London, South Africa, New York City, Madagascar, France, Jamaica and Hawaii—but the Shakes now call Harlem home.

Mwenso tells JazzTimes that the group has “figured out how to play funk grooves and African music in a way that still holds up the deepest elements of jazz and swing … We’re trying to fulfill the spirit of Louis Armstrong and those people, we want to protect what they held up, and guard it and bow and give reverence to them — but also to be free within ourselves.”

In advance of the concert, Michela Marino Lerman, tap dancer and choreographer, will lead a workshop on the various dances associated with the music to be performed by Mwenso & the Shakes before the group brings original music with a focus on self-empowerment to the stage.

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