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City of Boston holds virtual celebration for Immigrant Heritage Month

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Immigrant Advancement

Several local musicians and poets from diverse backgrounds performed.

June is Immigrant Heritage Month and this year, the City of Boston and the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant Advancement (MOIA) held a virtual concert to celebrate the diversity, talent, and strength of our City. Several very talented local musicians and poets from diverse backgrounds performed their original work and shared their immigrant stories.

The Immigrant Heritage Month Virtual Celebration was on June 30, 2020, but you can watch the event on Facebook:

Watch the virtual celebration

Artist bios

Artist bios

Fabiola Mendez

Fabiola M. Mendez is a Puerto Rican cuatro player that has taken part in a musical movement, crossing over the lines of genres such as folkloric, jazz, and Latin. A graduate from Berklee College of Music '18, Fabiola has worked and performed for artists such as: Totó La Momposina, Eddie Palmieri, Puerto Rican Symphony Orchestra, El Gran Combo de Puerto Rico, Cucco Peña, and Pedro Capó, among others. She was a luminary at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and currently works as an independent artist all around New England, collaborating with organizations such as Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA), Celebrity Series of Boston, Hyde Square Task Force, PR Veterans Monument Association, and Agora Cultural Architects.
 
In her most recent album “Al Otro Lado del Charco” (2019), Fabiola reflects on the experience of being a Latina immigrant. Each piece of the album aims to take the listener through the feelings of nostalgia, joy, frustration, pride, cultural responsibility, and love. This album was considered one of the top 20 albums of 2019, according to the Popular Music National Foundation in PR.

Nev and Kalina

Kalina and Nev Neskoska are a power sister duo originally from Ohrid, Macedonia. While the Neskoski family relocated to Chicago in 2000, the sisters moved to Boston just four years ago when Nev began her Berklee diploma and Kalina her new marketing job. Nev and Kalina write Macedonian pop and folk and create all the content for their Macedonian language learning show called “Darko Biberko.” Growing up in diverse cities like Chicago and Boston has not only given them appreciation for other cultures, but the courage to be themselves and to proudly promote their heritage to fellow Americans. Check them out on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Marcus Santos

A contemporary percussionist and educator, Marcus, is a native of Bahia, Brazil. He commits his life to the study, teaching and performance of his hometown's Afro-Brazilian music and heritage. 

Marcus performed with several world renown artists such as the Gypsy Kings (Spain), Daniela Mercury (Brazil) and the Brand New Heavies (England). He has also performed for the president of Brazil, TEDx and with the “One World Band” produced by MTV. Marcus also played at the Sony Pictures Oscar nominated movie ‘Rachel's getting Married’ with Anne Hathaway. He has been honored with the 2013 KOSA Recognition award, Outstanding Arts Performer Award by the Brazilian Immigrant Center (2008) as well as Outstanding Percussionist Award by Berklee College of Music in 2004.

Marcus currently teaches in the Boston area at New England Conservatory, Middlesex Community College and Somerville High School. He is the author of the DVD ‘Modern Approach to Pandeiro’ and performed in the music education DVD ‘Musically Speaking II’ by BOSE. Marcus has led workshops on Afro-Brazilian percussion and music for Social Change in festivals, universities and conventions around the world such as Fiesta Del Tambor (Cuba), Carnegie Hall (NYC), PASIC (USA) and Harvard University. He is currently the artist director of the Grooversity global drumming network project that includes twenty four drumming groups from the US, Canada, Germany, Mexico and France.

Christiane Karam

Born and raised in war-torn Lebanon, Christiane Karam's eclectic vocal style stems from her love for different musical traditions and roots in Armenian, Arab and French cultures. She first came to Boston in 1998 to attend Berklee College of Music and then later, the New England Conservatory. She has taught and performed around the world, and collaborated with the likes of Javier Limon, Tigran Hamasyan, Binka Dobreva and Bobby McFerrin, at venues such as Summerstage, Carnegie Hall and the Teatro Nacional to name a few. In addition to coaching and performing, she is an award-winning songwriter and the founder and leader of both the acclaimed Pletenitsa Balkan Choir and the Berklee Annual Middle Eastern Festival. She is currently on the faculty of Berklee College of Music where she continues her work of bringing awareness and positive social change through music and the arts. Check Christiane out on Facebook and Instagram.

Zihan Xu Lia

I am a musician, author, and educator who has played the Guqin over 20 years. Guqin is the most ancient Chinese stringed instrument, with a history of over 3000 years. With more than 1,000 different finger techniques, Guqin is one of the most complicated instruments in the world to learn.I started to learn Guqin at the age of 9  in Chengdu where in the Southwest of China and I also studied Guqin in Hong Kong in my early twenties.After graduating from the Chinese University of Hong Kong I published my Award-winning Book " the Art of Guqin and the Book of Songs", which has been added to the collection of Hong Kong Public Library Officially. Becoming aware of one’s own culture is the first step in learning and respecting about other people's culture. 

Like many others, I came to this country with an American dream that I will live a life to the fullest and make a contribution back to the society. Boston has various distinguished arts locations and the best of the best universities in the world. It is here I accomplished the first K12 classical Bi-cultural education curriculum. I am determined to raise the awareness of the importance of youth having access to culture, art, religion, and history and sees their integration in education as a key to addressing international social issues such as racial conflicts and gender inequality. It is since the Immigrant Heritage Month I have become the Guqin Art Specialist in Boston where my American dream with my Asian instrument starts.

Check Zihan Xu Lia out on Youtube and Facebook.

Allegra Fletcher

Allegra Fletcher is Afro-Caribbean Latina, her maternal grandparents coming from Honduras and Roatan, a Caribbean island off the coast. She spent the majority of her childhood in Dorchester, MA, and credits Boston's open mic scene and cultural leaders with providing safe and encouraging spaces for her to hone her songwriting as a teenager. Allegra takes pride in the strength of the women in her life, especially of her grandmother, who came to the U.S. for a better life for her and her family with an elementary school education. With a bachelor's, a master's and now pursuing a PhD, Allegra keeps her grandmother's story central, and seeks to honor her in her academic and creative endeavors. Check out Allegra on Instagram.

Alondra Bobadilla

Alondra has had a deep rooted love for poetry and spoken word since early childhood. She is the City of Boston’s first ever youth poet laureate. In her position, she hopes to ignite a passion for poetry in the hearts of her community and encourage youth to use their voices as an outlet and to be ambassadors for their city in the push for progress. Check out Alondra on Instagram.

Amanda Gorman

Amanda Gorman is the Inaugural Youth Poet Laureate of the United States and a senior at Harvard studying Sociology. She has written for the New York Times and performed several times for special broadcasts of CBS. She has two books forthcoming with Penguin Random House. Check out Amanda on Instagram.

Albino Mbie 

Albino Mbie is an award winning Musician, Guitarist, Singer, Composer, Sound and mixing engineer born in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, a country in southern Africa known for its rich musical and cultural heritage. Fueled by the resourcefulness and determination that have always characterized Mozambicans, he built his first guitar at 16 from a 5-liter can of oil, scrap wood, and strings made out of electrical cords.

Drawn to the sounds of neighborhood street musicians in Maputo, Albino began to play in a number of local bands. As with his home-made guitar, Albino wanted to combine styles and incorporate diverse elements in his music. For his talents to grow, he knew he needed experience new places, cultures, and sounds.

While studying music education and Performance at Universidade Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique, he heard about the Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, where he could expand his musical horizons. Soon after, Mbie was one of the first students to receive a full scholarship to Berklee through the African Scholars program. In 2009, he settled in Boston, Massachusetts.

At Berklee, he was exposed to a variety of influences, but wanted to go deeper into the roots of jazz and expand his knowledge of music. He auditioned and was selected to participate in the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, which is directed by Danilo Perez and the residency teachers, including Joe Lovano John Patitucci, and Terri Lyne Carrington. The Institute emphasizes an artist's original vision in jazz, and has helped Mbie find his own unique voice in the art form.

Albino still felt the absence of his own Mozambican traditions in his music. With the help of his mentors, Richard Bona and Lionel Loueke, two of the most prominent African musicians in the United States of America today, he began to bridge that gap.

Today, Albino”s music succeeds in combining many disparate parts into an organic whole. It incorporates his musical experiences from Mozambique, the U.S., and many other places around the world, combining rhythmic patterns and musical concepts to create a unique Afro-Pop and Moz-Jazz sound. He will always continue to combine and capture the energies of different musical traditions to create a unified and original musical style.

He graduated from the Berklee College of Music in Performance , production music and sound engineering and Minor in acoustics and electronics in 2013.

Albino Mbie released his first album titled ” Mozambican Dance” in July 2013 with 12 original compositions with musicians from 16 countries.

Korex.O

19-year-old world pop artist Korex.O was born during a time of political and social turmoil in the Southwest part of Nigeria in early 2000. On the night of his birth, his mother, who was a student in college at the time, had to flee the hospital to be transferred to a safer location through a town riddled with bullets and burning cars.

Amidst this turmoil, and perhaps to escape from it, Korex.O started his musical journey learning how to play the piano at age 6. At age 10 he fell in love with the saxophone. Inspired by his parents' love of afrobeat, Korex.O gravitated towards a wide array of artists including Fela Kuti, Phil Collins, Kanye West and Grover Washington Jr.
At 13 he auditioned for Nigeria’s Got Talent, playing the saxophone. He came in 4th place in a country of over 160 million people. At such a young age, this feat propelled Korex.O into another level of fame and musical success in Nigeria and beyond.

Propelled by this accomplishment, at age 15, Korex.O became one of the youngest members of the African High-Life Allstars Club. A club featuring some of Nigeria’s biggest High-Life and Afrobeat musicians. He performed twice in front of thousands of fans at the Felabration concert which features Africa’s biggest artists like Wizkid, Davido and Burna Boy. He has graced the stage with various musical legends like Lagbaja, Chris Ajilo and Banky W. And in 2015 he was honored to perform for the Vice-President of Nigeria.
It was around this time that Korex.O began to see himself as a songwriter, as well as a musician. He wanted to use his unique voice to share his story and connect with people through the music he loves. He started writing Afro Pop songs and soon evolved into a fusion of world music including American pop and Latin. He writes about his struggles, his high moments and low moments, and of course love.

In 2017, he moved with his parents to Boston, where he met producer Josh Gold. At first this seemed an odd musical pairing: a 19 year old Nigerian and a 45 year old Jewish music producer from Boston. But that diverse pairing paid off as the two began working on his debut album. As Gold put it, “as soon as he sat down at the piano and sang Heartless Kidz, I was hooked. I was a Korex.O fan.”

The resulting, “Young,” captures the essence of Korex.O. His unmistakable voice delivers universal messages that resonate. And his catchy hooks and melodies are poised to deliver a new sound to pop radio.

When Korex.O is asked what his goal is in music, his response is simple: “To touch the world with my songs.”