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Giant Steps Presents The Music Action Collective

Doors at 7:30 pm; Show at 8 pm

Eventbrite - Giant Steps Presents the Music Action Collective

Tickets are $10 Before September 1 / $15 Before October 7 / $20 Week of Show

The Music Action Collective is a global musical collective that brings together talented, socially-engaged artists to create a new musical language, rooted in social justice principles, that addresses and advances global social issues.

This season’s collective is a sonic exploration of global cultures that features African hip-hop, vocals and beats from the Balkans and Caucuses, saxes and flutes crossing jazz, Japanese folk, and African music with an Afro-Latin foundation. Members of the nine-piece collective hail from Kenya, Kosovo, Armenia, Tanzania, Nicaragua, and the USA.




Meet the Artists:

Rona Nishliu, vocals, Kosovo

Born in the mid-1980s in Mitrovica, Kosovo, a country still coming to terms with its recent history of ethnic apartheid and violence, Rona Nishliu is an iconic figure of contemporary Albanian culture and prominent singer that has helped shape the Albanian cultural and music scene with her singular style combining jazz and soul influences with Balkan motifs and traditions.

In 2011, Rona captured the hearts of the nation with her hit single "Suus,” and went on become the first Kosovar singer to win the coveted prize of the 50th Anniversary Edition of the Albanian Radio Television Song Festival, as well representing Albania in the Eurovision Song Contest 2012, where her performance made “the Crystal Hall in Azerbaijan vibrate like no other" (The Frankfurter).

Rona is also a well-known social activist, participating in campaigns against intergenerational violence, against violence on women, and against violence in teenage couples. She is an advocate with the National Association for Autism in Kosovo, and has worked with UNDP in motivating youth to engage in voluntary work, among other projects.

Sevana Tchakerian, vocals, accordion, shvi (Armenian flute), Armenia/France

Sevana Tchakerian is a French-Armenian musician, songwriter, educator and tour manager. Though classically trained on piano and vocals, she grew up singing and playing Armenian folk melodies. In 2012, she co-founded the Collectif Medz Bazar, a multi-ethnic band rearranging and creating traditional and original songs combining middle-eastern and balkan folk, hip-hop, chanson, cabaret, jazz and latin influences, where she sings and plays accordion.

In 2015, Sevana moved to Armenia to initiate Tsap-Tsapik, an inclusive music program aiming at rural educational development and pedagogical innovation. She is working to publish the first preschool music education curriculum in Armenian language. In parallel, she has created Dayl'Ayl Production, a tour management agency aiming at promoting Armenian musical talents internationally.

James Brandon Lewis, sax, USA

Acclaimed saxophonist and composer James Brandon Lewis has received accolades from The New York Times, NPR and Ebony Magazine, who hailed him as one of the “7 Young Players to Watch” in today’s scene.  Lewis has shared stages with such icons as Geri Allen, Benny Golson, Wallace Roney, GRAMMY Award-winning singer Dorinda Clark Cole, and intrepid artists including William Parker, Hamiet Bluiett, Hamid Drake, Ravi Coltrane, Jimmy Heath, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Joe Lovano , Dave Douglas, and many others .

Lewis has released three albums as a leader. On his latest, Days of FreeMan. Lewis “makes it sound natural to play roaming, experimental funk” (The New York Times) by drawing inspiration and re-interpreting the sound foundations of 1990s hip-hop. He is a co-founder of “Heroes Are Gang Leaders” with poet Thomas Sayers Ellis—a collective of poets and musicians—and a member of the collective “Dark Matter,” a conceptual musical collaboration exploring that which is invisible but is detected by it’s gravitational effects. Lewis attended Howard University and holds a Master of Fine Arts from California Institute of the Arts.

Kauzeni Lyamba, African bamboo flute, alto sax, percussion, vocals, Tanzania

Multi-instrumentalist, educator, producer, and organizer Kauzeni Lyamba is a dynamic performer with extensive experience in cross-cultural collaboration. After winning awards for percussion as a child in Tanzanian festivals, Kauzeni went on to

studying at the German Global Music Academy before launching his career as a performer, educator, and cultural organizer.  He has collaborates with musicians across thirteen European countries as a participant of several Ethno World programs (in Sweden, Denmark, Croatia, and Belgium), and worked for many years as a teacher, organizer, and performer of the Umoja Cultural Flying Carpets, an international cross-cultural initiative to foster peace and development, in which time he has worked with artists across east and southern Africa as well as Europe.

Among his many accolades as a performer, Kauzeni was awarded a European tour as the winner of the 2010 Music Crossroads International, has represented Tanzania on several international stages, including the world’s largest conference on water, Expo Zaragova, in Spain, and the Forde Folk Music Festival in Sweden, and performs with a variety of groups in his native Tanzania where he routinely travels across east and southern Africa.

Erika Oba, piano, flute, Japan/USA

Erika Oba is a composer, pianist/flutist, and educator based in the SF Bay Area. As a composer she has written works commissioned by the Montclair Women’s Big Band, and Frances Feldon and the Galax Quartet. As a performer she is a member of the Montclair Women’s Big Band, Mara Performance Collective, Ends Meat’ Catastrophe Jazz Ensemble, electro-jazz duo Rice Kings, and The Sl(e)ight Ensemble. As an artist, she is interested in exploring ritual, diasporic identities, and community through performance.  She received her Bachelor's degree in Jazz Piano Performance from Oberlin Conservatory and her Master's degree in Music Composition from Mills College.

Avery Waite, cello, USA

Juilliard and Oberlin-trained cellist Avery Waite is a composer, performer, and international music education leader who has performed and taught at music programs around the world, including Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Jamaica, and El Salvador among others.  Avery has performed in venues including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Alice Tully Hall, and has performed alongside many renowned artists such as Itzhak Perlman. As a composer and arranger, he has done extensive arranging of traditional Indo-Afghan, Central Asian and Kurdish folk music. His ensemble Drifting East recently released its debut album, Songs and Melodies of Afghanistan.

In his current role as Program Director for the global music education organization MusAid, he leads socially-minded music projects in countries emerging from poverty and conflict by leading volunteer teaching workshops and fellowships. Avery is also on the faculty of American Voices, working at the forefront of cross-cultural engagement around the world. He was a 2016-17 Fulbright Scholar, focused on developing music programs across India.

Chris Bastian, bass, USA

Bassist Chris Bastian is a California native who has lived and worked as a musician in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York City, Quito,  Ecuador, and Santiago de Chile. He has performed with a variety of ensembles in a wide range of musical traditions including jazz, opera, blues, flamenco, Jewish music, huayno, soul, and Afrobeat,. He has performed at Radio City Music Hall, Herbst Theater, Studio 54, Yoshi's, and Ars Nova and has had the honor to share the stage with Babá Ken Okulolo, Kenny Burrell, Kalil Wilson, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Il Volo, among others. In addition to his versatility on double, electric, and keybass, Chris also plays accordion and keyboards. He is interested in the way people collaborate and the intersection of diverse forms of artistic expression.

Ernesto “Matute” López, drums, Nicaragua

Ernesto López, better known as Matute, is a versatile, award-winning drummer, ecologist, and social/environmental activist. After picking up the drums by assembling salvage parts as a seven-year-old, Matute went on to develop an eclectic sound rooted in Latin traditions and influenced by funk jazz, ska, reggae, funk, salsa, rock, and cumbia and toured across the US and Latin America in more than forty bands, including California-based groups Afrolicious, Ginger Ninjas, and LoCura, and Tunisia’s MC Rai. His music career includes a 2016 GRAMMY Nomination as a member of the first Nicaraguan band receiving such a nomination, La Cuneta Son Machín.

He is co-founder and currently directs Apapoachoa Foundation, an eco-cultural oasis in the primarily indignenous commutniy of Santa Julia set amid a 2,300-acre natural forest reserve outside of Managua. Apapachoa is creating a sustainable development community through reforestation, sustainable bio-intensive agriculture, permaculture, micro-entrepreneurship and economic development, education, and music, arts, and culture.

Jackline Kasiva Mutua, percussion, vocals, Kenya

Acclaimed percussionist Kasvia Mutua is working to elevate the place of the African woman in music. Her performance style integrates African traditional music with modern styles such as jazz, hip-hop, reggae and zouk. As a young drummer, Kasiva learned traditional drums from her grandmother and continues to perpetuate her heritage and celebrate her community’s spirit.

A member of the internationally-touring East African music collective Nile Project since 2014, Kasiva has also served as a Fellow of the US State Department international music exchange project, 1Beat, and in 2017 was named a Global TED Fellow.

Music Action Lab 2.0: Global Social Justice Music Residency
September 25—October 20, 2017

Launched in Fall 2016, the Music Action Lab is a social justice-focused music incubator for talented musicians around the world to come together for a month of musical and social innovation that culminates in new, original music advancing local and global issues.

Participating musicians in the Lab are selected by competitive application and drawn from explicitly diverse geographic, musical, social, and ethnic backgrounds to heighten the challenge of artistic inquiry, and the promise of artistic excellence.  Selected members split their time on a daily basis between interactive learning sessions facilitated by social impact experts drawing from academia, the arts, culture, media, and activism fields (in the mornings); and collaborative music-making under the mentorship of professional recording artists (in the afternoons).  In addition, the residency features weekly “Music Action Live” sessions that provide participants a hands-on experience in one aspect of utilizing music in a community setting.

As Fellows, our month-long curriculum results in the development of an individual Music Action Project (MAP), a detailed strategy to combine musical leadership to their local community when participants return home after the residency. Curriculum modules include “Understanding Social Justice and Equity,” “Music, Human Values, and Social Change,” “Social Entrepreneurship 101,” “Life Design,” “Music Action Prototyping,” case studies on musical social enterprises, and live sessions with at-risk populations in prisons, hospitals, and schools. In the musical setting, members come together as a purely collaborative, leaderless ensemble where each individual is treated as a peer, and each individual voice is respected, valued, and featured in the composition process as well as performances.

The 2017 Music Action class features musicians from Africa (Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania), Europe (Kosovo), Asia (Armenia), South America (Nicaragua), and the USA. Faculty features multi-GRAMMY nominated drummer Eric Harland, longtime member of the country’s leading jazz ensemble SFJAZZ Collective, and social entrepreneurship expert, author, and NYU Professor of Social Entrepreneurship Jonathan Lewis.

Held from September 25-October 20, each of the four weeks of the residency is conducted with a local partner, as follows:

  • Week 1 in partnership with the University of San Francisco’s Performing Arts for Social Justice program (San Francisco)
  • Week 2 with world music and dance community center Ashkenaz (Berkeley)
  • Week 3 with the after-school community center San Francisco 49ers Academy (East Palo Alto)
  • Week 4 at the international poverty alleviation conference Opportunity Collaboration (Ixtapa, Mexico)

This year’s “Music Action Live” sessions include working with incarcerated men at SF Jail #5 as part of USF’s Performing Arts for Community Exchange initiative; bedside music for pediatric patients (at either UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in Oakland, or Lucille Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto); mentorship of local youth and school performances (in partnership with SFJAZZ’s Jazz in the Middle program, the San Francisco 49ers Academy, and low-income elementary schools Maya Lin and Henry Haight in Alameda).

Later Event: October 15
Soul Sanctuary Dance