Sep 9th 2023

The Shades of Blue, all building open house programs are featured in conjunction with the South Asia Institute’s upcoming “Indigo: The Blue Gold” art exhibition by Shelly Jyoti which is focused on and is themed around the history associated with the blue dye derived from the indigo plant that has touched many communities across the world. Through this series of free performances and events, the South Asia Institute (SAI) looks to help highlight, educate, and celebrate the roots and journeys of Chicago blues music and jazz music, and South Asian performing arts and share the parallel stories of the color blue dye and Indigo plant’s own journey. From first being harvested and cultivated in India and Africa, then its own journey to the early American South. In the series of all-building open-house events, SAI will engage audiences with poets, dancers, films, and music performances by noted local and international touring jazz, blues, classical, and world musicians.

Each event of the four-part series will feature one poet, one dancer, three music ensembles, roaming artist performances, and film events taking place throughout the three-level building at staggered starting times. Locations for each floor will be in the first-floor gallery space, the second-floor performance hall, and the third-floor event space.

Music performances by esteemed folk musician Abdul Mannan and his sons, the Aqil Brothers, featuring Mohammed on harmonium and vocals and Shamim on dhak and vocals both accompanying their singing father on stage and will make their SAI debut.

There will also be poetry readings of new works specifically commissioned for the event. The poems will be based around or inspired by the “Indigo Blue” theme. Noted Chicago-based poet and author Billy Tuggle will perform poems and pieces related to the Blues, Indigo, and more.

Also at each of the events, there will be a short rotating dance performance in the first-floor gallery space. These dance pieces will also be commissioned specifically for the Indigo Blue series by four local dancers ranging from American tap, contemporary and jazz dancers, along with South Asian classically trained dancers performing Rajasthani folk and even modern dance. For September 9th Indian classical trained, contemporary Chicago-based dancer Shalaka Kulkarni will perform.

The last element of programming includes film screenings and talks which will also take place at each event for our film-loving patrons. One noted film included for September 9th will be ‘Searching for the Blues’ a three-part docu-series feature-length documentary that explores the history and reveals the beauty and importance of indigo, weaving together stories about textiles and culture and interviews with artists, artisans, and historians.

South Asia Institute has established itself in a Chicago neighborhood with a deep musical history. It is located only blocks away from the legendary Chess Records Studios, Willie Dixon Blues Heaven Foundation, and many other historic music labels that were once scattered along Michigan Ave. and which focused on jazz, blues, gospel, and early recordings of rock and roll. In consideration of this history, it only seems fitting for SAI to take this opportunity to program and help celebrate the rich traditions of the blues, jazz, and Chicago music. The theme of Indigo and shades of blue take on a whole new meaning when presented through various art forms and with high caliber and even world-renowned artists.

The Shades of Blues series is supported by a grant from the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

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