ListenUp: World Music
We revisit the vibrant sounds and rhythms of musicians from around the globe in our updated world music playlist. The playlist features musical gems from several Annenberg Center favorites: the queen of Afro-pop, Angélique Kidjo, Indian tabla virtuoso Zakir Hussain, Zimbabwean a cappella group Nobuntu, the traditional Irish band Danú, and the electrifying Mexican-American singer Lila Downs.
Looking Back at Vessels
Photos by Kielinski Photography
On March 7, 2019 – one year before the coronavirus pandemic hit – we presented the world premiere of Vessels
. An Annenberg Center co-commission, this poignant work centered on the question, “What does freedom sound like in a space of confinement?” Set on an abstraction of a slave ship with neither spoken words nor instrumental music, Vessels
explored the journey of African women across the Middle Passage through sound and movement.
Inspiration struck Vessels co-creator Rebecca Mwase when she heard a talk about how millions of enslaved people arrived on these shores with their sanity intact. She immediately thought that song and dance must have played a crucial role. Mwase partnered with Ron Ragin, a singer and composer who focuses on interdisciplinary performance art and music of the African Diaspora, and the two embarked on a four-year journey studying traditional song and dance to create this important work. Read more...
Checking in with some family favorites
Photo of MUMMENSCHANZ by Marco Hartmann
For decades, our family programming, Student Discovery Series and annual Philadelphia Children’s Festival have featured artists from around the world for performances that are at once entertaining and educational. As we miss hearing the delighted giggles and exuberant applause from our youngest audience members, we thought we’d check in with a few family favorites from the past two years and bring the show to you virtually. Enjoy a mesmerizing swing act in the Las Vegas desert by Cirque Mechanics
; a vibrant exploration of Mexican music, dance and costuming by Mexico Beyond Mariachi
; or a classic appearance by MUMMENSCHANZ
from The Muppet Show
in 1976. We can’t wait to see bright, smiling faces of all ages in our theatres again soon! Read more...
Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month
Posted September 28, 2020
Photo of Ballet Hispánico by Paula Lobo
September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic American Heritage Month
, an annual event celebrating the cultural contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans. We are proud to serve Philadelphia as a cultural destination that connects you with some of the best Hispanic music and dance artists each season. To honor Hispanic Heritage Month, we wanted to share some video highlights from some of the amazing array of Hispanic artists who have performed on our stages over the past few years. Enjoy! Read more...
Tiny Desk Concerts by Annenberg Center Artists
Esperanza Spalding's 2010 Tiny Desk concert
Since 2008, NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts
has presented over 800 performances. The online concert series, perhaps the most popular of its kind in the world, features different artists from every musical genre in intimate, in-studio performances lasting about 15-20 minutes. There’s only one main rule for the artists to follow: All equipment, instruments and people must fit behind the desk. The famed desk space, reminiscent of a quirky, jam-packed office cubicle, has hosted many Annenberg Center artists over the years. Here are a few of our recent favorites! Read more...
5 Questions with Dorothy Wilkie
We continue our series asking five questions to discover more about Annenberg Center artists and others whom we find interesting. Today, we learn about Dorothy Wilkie, dancer, choreographer and Artistic Director of Kulu Mele African Dance & Drum Ensemble. With her expansive knowledge of Afro-Cuban and West African dance, Wilkie has led Kulu Mele for over thirty years and, most recently, created the full-length work Ogun & the People
as part of the company’s 50th anniversary celebration. As an Annenberg Center commissioned work, we were thrilled to have Kulu Mele grace our stage for the first time in 2019 with this world premiere. Read on to learn more about Dorothy Wilkie.
What first got you into dance?
I always loved to dance as a child and at family gatherings, people always used to call me to dance to certain music. And that’s where it started. Coming up in school, there were Friday lunchtime dances and Friday after-school dances that I never missed. And with live music! People put rhythm and blues to Latin. We were dancing to mambo and cha cha. Slopping and bopping and stranding. Wilk (John Wilkie) and I were known to be dancers. People would make a circle and watch us. Read more...
The joyful a cappella of Nobuntu
Photo by Werner Puntigam Ear X Eye
Internationally renowned all-female a cappella ensemble Nobuntu
brightened our stage in 2018, wowing audiences with a mix of traditional Zimbabwean songs, Afro-jazz and gospel. While celebrating their vibrant African culture, these women continue to showcase how music can be a vehicle for change, one that transcends boundaries of race, religion and gender.
Recently, Nobuntu appeared as part of Lincoln Center’s #ConcertsforKids series, bringing their pure voices and diverse musical stylings front and center. Check out this beautiful performance by Nobuntu, and be sure to browse the rest of the #ConcertsforKids programs, allowing your family to be inspired by world class artists while at home.
Danú vocalist Nell Ní Chroinin keeps our fond memories of live performing arts going strong
With only a handful of days left in May, it has now been about 10 weeks since we had to close our doors for the rest of the season. Before COVID-19, we were looking forward to announcing our 20/21 season in April and then finishing out the spring semester with a vibrant series of diverse, exciting performances. The annual joy of closing out one great season to then start another one feels like a distant memory now.
But it is times like this when we need artistic expression the most. Read more...
ListenUp: World Music Playlist
Listen up to the styles and rhythms of an array of different cultures reflected in this week’s world music playlist. We showcase outstanding artists we welcomed in our 19/20 season—Angélique Kidjo
, Sweet Honey in the Rock
, as well as 47SOUL
, who made their Philadelphia debut, and Jesse Cook
, who made his Annenberg Center debut. And we bring you the brilliant blend of traditional and contemporary Mexican music of Annenberg Center favorite Lila Downs
and Jarana Beat
(who would have made their Annenberg Center debut), artists we were sorry to miss hearing this spring. Get ready to experience this colorful mix of some of the best artists that cross our stages!
World music superstar Angélique Kidjo remains active on the virtual stage
Chart-topping world music superstar Angélique Kidjo shone radiantly when she performed in the Zellerbach Theatre back in February (co-presented by World Café Live) and she remains a beacon of light since then, participating in multiple projects that push her incredible artistry out into the virtual space for us all to enjoy. This busy, four-time Grammy® Award winner recently performed on the new online series Live with Carnegie Hall, along with Nigerian Afropop star Yemi Alade, Senegalese singer-guitarist Baaba Maal, and another recent Annenberg Center performer, jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves. The session was moderated by John Schaefer of WNYC.
Kidjo also performed Bella Bellow’s “Blewu” with Yo-Yo Ma as part of his #SongsofComfort series, appeared on Read more...