Memphis is known across the world as the home of the blues and the birthplace of rock-and-roll. But most people don't realize that the city's global-culture scene is also bustling, courtesy of the thousands of immigrants who now call the Bluff City home.
This weekend, for example, the local nonprofit group MPACT Memphis, with help from the local chapter of The Recording Academy, is hosting an annual fund-raiser highlighting the city's burgeoning Latino culture.
Billed as MPACT ¡Impacto!, the event is slated for Friday, January 28th, at 8 p.m. in the former Plaza Club space downtown. A grant from the Greater Memphis Arts Council and the Tennessee Arts Commission will help fund a performance by Venezuelan band Los Amigos Invisibles, who are flying in specifically for the event. Memphis' own Los Cantadores (led by Mexican émigré Domingo Montez) will open the show, which will be recorded -- and eventually broadcast internationally -- by locally based radio program Beale Street Caravan, syndicated by NPR.
"The Recording Academy helped book Los Amigos Invisibles," explains Katherine Sage, project manager of NARAS' Memphis chapter. "[It's] an effort to increase awareness of the Latin music industry. With their Latin funk and soul-driven rock, they seemed like the perfect band to bring to Memphis."
For advance tickets or more information, call 901-312-7760 or go to MPACTMemphis.org.
If you missed last Saturday's Dance Relief tsunami-aid party held at Midtown's India Palace restaurant, you may get another chance to boogie for charity. The benefit's coordinator, former Memphian Arjun Durghangi, hopes to make it a regular event.
"I'm currently getting my masters degree in public health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore," Durghangi says. "My track is in social and behavioral interventions, which deals with unconventional ways of changing knowledge, attitudes, and practices of people about health, disease, and education. So I see what I'm doing here with Dance Relief -- raising awareness, directing civic activity, and combating health emergencies through dance and social engagement -- as a direct extension of all that."
Durghangi, who once worked as a journalist in Tamil Nadu, an Indian state that was badly hit by December's tsunami, had originally planned to spend Christmas in the Andaman Islands, which were also devastated by the disaster.
"My impulse was to fly to Indonesia and provide direct relief myself. [That] fell apart," Durghangi says, explaining how Dance Relief evolved from an impromptu meeting at the Deliberate Literate coffeeshop, where Memphians J.R. Kamra, Sandeep Raghow, Grishma Desai, Eric Morris, Santosh Kale, and Faisal Ansari volunteered to help. Ansari, a DJ and president of the International Cultural Club at Christian Brothers University, agreed to spin world beats and hip-hop at India Palace, where proceeds went to relief organizations in India, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia.
To learn about future Dance Relief events, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org visit GmodelDesign.com/dance/.
Memphis' Chinese community will be celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Rooster at the University of Memphis on Saturday, January 29th. "We've got a real variety show planned," says Jinliang Cai of the Greater Memphis United Chinese Association. "We've got Chinese bands and folksingers, a children's chorus, dancers, tai chi demonstrations, comedy skits, and more. Members of the Memphis Youth Symphony will play Chinese compositions, and we'll have traditional musicians on instruments like the erhu."
Some of the performers are invited to Memphis by special invitation, while others are local, Cai adds, noting that the city is home to approximately 5,000 Chinese immigrants. "It's a very vibrant community -- very well-educated and very talented. But aside from the Center for Southern Folklore's annual heritage festival, we only perform on very special occasions," he says.
On Saturday, the Chinese Association will host two performances at the U of M's Rose Theater, at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Attendees can also participate in additional activities at the University Center from 4 to 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $3 (with student ID) to $15. For more information, go to MemphisChinese.com.