Catalina Maria Johnson

International radio broadcaster, bilingual cultural journalist, music curator

“The area where i was born, is called the “Frontera de la Paz” (border of peace) and we speak Portuñol! Half of the city is Brazilian and the other half is from Uruguay,” exclaims Brazilian conductor Alexandra Arrieche. Arrieche is one of the two guest conductors invited for the Chicago Sinfonietta Global Dance Party, and she is explaining her choice of the music that will be part of the first half of the performance.

Arrieche, a renowned young conductor who was awarded amongst other recognitions the 2012 BSO-Peabody Conducting Fellowship, continued to enthusiastically describe these upcoming concerts in that melodious mixture of Portuguese and Spanish that this reporter understood and was able to follow due to the “ñol” or “español” part of the dialect.

The Sinfonietta approached her for the project which was envisioned as involving two guest conductors (Joseph Young will conduct as well) who would choose music from their cultural heritages.

“I decided to include VIllalobos, of course,” says Arrieche, “I am Brazilian! But also Piazzolla, because in Brazil, each state is a miniature country, and in the south, because of the closeness to Uruguay, we also listen to Latin American music like boleros and tangos.”

The Sinfonietta Global Dance Party performances will also bring a very out-of-the ordinary musician and her instrument. Rekha Malhotra, better known as DJ Rekha, a London-born musician, producer, curator, and activist known for making bhangra widely known in global music circles and clubs world-round will also add her beats to the mix.

DJ-Rekha-World-Record-djing

For the half of the program Arrieche will be conducting, the piece DJ Rekha will perform is titled Pyar Baile. DJ Rekha chose it for its special affinity to the symphonic portion selected by Arrieche, as this particular track was composed inspired by a trip to Brazil and includes as well, vocal samples of Zuzuka Poderosa, a Brazilian Indonesian musician.

DJ Rekha and her longtime collaborator percussionist and producer Dave Sharma will blend their beats and traditional Indian percussion instruments with the Sinfonietta providing the rest of the instrumentation for this piece and also “Rekha’s Dance Party”, the finale of the evening’s program.

This is the first time for all involved in producing this particular kind of collaboration, but Arrieche is not concerned about the outcome. She notes that her own personal history in southern Brazil comes from mixing different cultures, because in the Frontera de la Paz, there is no legal obstacle to crossing the border between the two countries.

Arrieche says it’s just all about finding the right balance between two different worlds, and just as in her hometown they have found a balance between Brazil and Uruguay, Portuguese and Spanish, in this innovative program they are all collaborating to find a common ground in the music between the electronic and the symphonic.

The Chicago Sinfonietta Global Dance Party will take place on Saturday, March 22, at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville at 8:00 p.m. and Monday, March 24, at Symphony Center at 7:30PM.

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