Tag Archives: Hazmat Modine

Global Mashups at Flushing Town Hall in New York City

Falu and Hazmat Modine

Five concerts this spring 2019 will pair music and dance by groups from excitedly different backgrounds for a night of cross-cultural fun. The concerts will take place March 9, March 23, April 6, April 20 and May 4.

The New York City borough of Queens is described as the world in microcosm, with around 138 languages spoken in the borough. Yet “everyone tends to stay in their own community,” notes Ellen Kodadek, Flushing Town Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director.

To break down some of these walls, to see what happens when neighbors meet, mingle, and dance together, the Queens art hub came up with a novel approach: Global Mashups, when two bands from radically different places and styles share a bill, then jam together, often for the first time, during a third set. This is the fifth edition of these mashups.

“Our mission is to bring people together, so this idea to pair unexpected artists across community lines really evolved organically,” says Kodadek. “We wanted to bring people together from diverse backgrounds in a fun way through music and dance. We do a lot of cross-cultural programing in our gallery and the theater, and this felt like the perfect approach for our music programs.”

Each performance is preceded by quick but fun dance lessons, to give concert goers all the basic moves they need to get out of their seat and make the most of the music. “It’s been a wildly successful set of programs,” Kodadek reflects.

Spanglish Fly

This year’s lineup includes:

March 9: Bollywood Meets Global Roots Blues (the polychrome glamor of singer Falu + maverick bluesmen Hazmat Modine).

March 23: Western Swing Meets Balkan Brass (the old-school American roots of The Brain Cloud + pan-Slavic fireworks of Romashka).

April 6: Latin Boogaloo Meets Klezmer (the vintage-inspired Latin grooves of Spanglish Fly + wild inventiveness of Frank London).

April 20: Bluegrass Meets Cuba (Buddy Merriam and Backroads + Cuban dynamos Conjunto Guantánamo).

May 4: Balkan Punk Meets West Africa (Toronto’s Balkanic rebels Lemon Bucket Orkestra + high-energy Kakande)

“One of the coolest aspects of these evenings is when we get married couples who come because one spouse is from one culture, and the other from another,” Kodadek recounts. “People bring their kids, and the show demonstrates that cultural combinations are totally normal and fun. It’s really wonderful to see.”

All shows start at 7 PM (dance lessons), 8 PM (concert and jam) at Flushing Town Hall, 137-35 Northern Blvd., Flushing NY 11354. Ticket and other information can be found at www.flushingtownhall.org or by calling (718) 463-7700 x 222.

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Artist profiles: Hazmat Modine

Hazmat Modine

Hazmat Modine is a band of unconventional musical instruments and cultural combinations that reflect the origins of the American musical soul. Their debut CD was Bahamut (Barbes Records 2006).

The band is led by two harmonica-players rounded out with tuba drums guitars and trumpet and recruits guests appearing on lesser-known instruments such as the claviola (an unusual free-reed instrument), cimbalom (a large hammered dulcimer of Eastern European origin), the contra-bass, saxophone and the sheng (Chinese mouth organ).

The band plays an unexpected mix that may include Blues, Rocksteady or Gypsy music. “If you want to be faithful to the music forms that made American music great,” says Hazmat leader Wade Schuman. “You have to be faithful to what made it great not to the music forms themselves. American music is by its essence music that comes out of the so-called melting pot of different cultures banging up against each other. And that was the creative aspect.”

Schuman explains that the first real Blues hit ‘St. Louis Blues’ by W.C. Handy included a minor-key tango section. “That is one of the things that makes the song what it is,” says Schuman. He points to the significant influence of Latin and Caribbean music in the 1930s and the huge influx of immigrants into New York City. “There were few studios in Trinidad ‘ explains the harmonica-player vocalist and guitarist. ‘Most Calypso musicians were recording in New York so many of the early Calypso recordings were related in some way to America. The point is that we live in a nostalgic commodified world where we believe that Rock and Roll or Bluegrass or Dixieland are rigid music forms not influenced by outside factors. But that is not the history of how American music happened. It’s really quite dynamic and based on a phenomenal cultural shift in the early part of the 20th century.”

At the same time Schuman recognizes that regions of the United States each had their own local flavor. “Without television and with limited national radio things didn’t homogenize as fast,” said Schuman. “Things would gestate in a lot of creative ways in different locations. Here in New York there are these individual music scenes full of incredible musicians. And I do try to tap into all these different spheres.”

Hazmat’s band members come out of many backgrounds. Guitarist Pete Smith will often give a song a Cuban or Brazilian spin. Veteran tuba player Joseph Daley not only brings a wealth of knowledge from his work as an improvising artist but is also respected as one of the United States’most creative ‘lower brass specialists.’ Drummer Richard Huntley hops from Latin and Jazz to Klezmer while Pamela Fleming uses her vibrant trumpet to bridge everything from the Swing era to soulful Reggae. Guitarist Michael Gomez who plays every style from finger-picking to Swing-Jazz to Rock and Roll also plays the Banjitar and the lap steel guitar. While Schuman’s harmonica repertoire evolved out of Pre-War Blues and roots Randy Weinstein draws on Chicago Blues Jazz and World Music.

The small diatonic harmonica was popularized in Germany as a folk instrument, almost a toy. It was sold in massive quantities and was affordable to American Southerners, both African-American and European-American. “They pulled from it things it was never meant to do,” explains Schuman. “Bending a note is an accident of physics creating that glissando blue note. An instrument designed for one thing is used in a different way and a new music form is invented for it.” The harmonica pictured on the cover of the debut CD Bahamut is a real instrument from Schuman’s collection and offers a visual metaphor for the band.

Discography

Bahamut (Barbès Records/JARO, 2006)
Cicada (Barbès Records/JARO, 2011)
Hazmat Modine Live (JARO, 2014)
Extra-Deluxe-Supreme (JARO, 2015)

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