Flushing Town Hall presents ‘Garifuna Meets Flamenco’ concert in mini global mashup series

Flushing town hall
Garifuna singer Lucy Blanco (l.) and Flamenco guitarists Lisa and Josué. (Photo courtesy of Flushing Town Hall)

Flushing Town Hall will present ‘Garifuna Meets Flamenco’ in its popular series, Common Ground: Mini-Global Mashups, on Sunday, Dec. 18, offering a lively collaboration between vocalist Lucy Blanco and Flamenco due Lisa Spraragen and Josué Pérez. 

Flushing Town Hall’s mini global mashups are a monthly concert series presenting solo and duo musicians from different countries and musical backgrounds together on stage for spontaneous “mini-mashups,” playing together for the first time in unexpected pairings. 

“Audiences get to discover amazing performers who play music that is traditional to their different cultures — but often modernized and fused with other musical elements. When two of these artists mashup on stage, they expand borders and create new sounds,” said Frank London, renowned klezmer musician and curator of the series.

Singer Blanco was born in the Bronx to parents of Garifuna descent who left their Honduran fishing village of Santa Rosa de Aguan to pursue a new life in the United States.

The Garifuna are an indigenous ethnic group of mixed African and native Caribbean ancestry originally from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, who were displaced to Central America in 1795. In 2001, UNESCO proclaimed Garifuna culture “a masterpiece of oral and intangible heritage to humanity.” 

“My goal is to make music that speaks to the love I have for jazz and Latin music, and that reflects the Garifuna, Afro-Latina heritage of which I am so proud,” Blanco said.

With no formal musical training but an impressive raw talent, Blanco has built a solid and rewarding career as one of the few female Garifuna artists and the only Garifuna jazz vocalist. She has done several collaborations with international jazz pianist Warren Byrd, performed at the Lady Got Chops Jazz Festival to rave reviews, and founded the Afri-Garifuna Jazz Ensemble.

Flamenco duo Spraragen and Pérez began performing together in the 1980s and have appeared in concert at the Theater at Madison Square Garden, Abrons Art Center, Julia de Burgos Theater, El Museo del Barrio, Paso Fino Grand Nationals and First Saturdays at the Brooklyn Museum, among many other venues. 

They have recorded five albums together and are known for juxtaposing flamenco, Latin music, classical guitar and original pieces. Pérez’s spontaneous improvised solos and Lisa’s flamenco dancing create a unique perspective through which audiences may experience the guitar as if it is coming from within themselves.

Spraragen got her start on the guitar as a child at the Henry St. Settlement Music School in Manhattan. She is a graduate of Brown University with an M.A. in music performance from New York University. She has performed at BAM, National Opera Center, Bargemusi and the Spanish Institute.

Pérez was born in Puerto Rico and began playing guitar in his family, and with various choral groups and on the radio in his town of Fajardo. He studied with Brazilian composer/guitarist Silas Antonio Santo and later studied jazz guitar, which led him to composition. He was commissioned to compose a score for Manhattan Theatre Club’s premiere of Sam Shepard’s “Eyes for Consuela” at City Center. His live guitar playing in the production was described as “evocative” and “exquisite” by Time Out NY.

In-person tickets are $12 for Flushing Town Hall members, seniors and students and $15 for non-members. Those who are unable to attend in person can view the livestream for $5. To purchase tickets, visit flushingtownhall.org/garifuna-meets-flamenco.

For the venue’s full schedule of events, visit flushingtownhall.org/events.