Out & About: Inanna, Sisters in Rhythm to release new CD

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The upcoming week’s music calendar seems to be dominated by exotic fare, even when the performers are locals. The parade starts Friday in Portland, when Primo Cubano, Maine’s own Cuban Son-and-Salsa band, plays One Longfellow Square.

Top event of the weekend, also at One Longfellow Square, is Saturday’s CD release party for Inanna, Sisters in Rhythm, a quartet of African-inspired female percussionists who have been performing in southern Maine and farther afield for nearly 20 years.

And four musicians from greater Boston will be subbing for the Portland String Quartet on Sunday. The Boston String Quartet, guests of the PSQ, will handle this third date in the subscription series. Their program includes familiar works plus one written by a contemporary New England composer.

Primo Cubano

Looking for some hot Caribbean music for a cold February night in Maine? Try One Longfellow Square this Friday when Primo Cubano, one of the venue’s regular local ensembles, plays traditional Cuban dance music dating back to the turn of the 20th century.

Primo Cubano, which translates as “Cuban Cousin,” was founded by guitarist Paul D’Alessio of Brunswick on a 2004 trip to Cuba. There he studied Son, a form of music which dates back to the early 1900s, and its evolution into today’s Salsa style.

Trumpeter Marc Chillemi has also spent time in Cuba and has played in various other Latin groups. He also plays percussion and sings on the choruses, to which the lead singer, called a sonero, responds with an improvised lyric. Lenny Hatch has loved the conga drums has been playing them in addition to the bongo and other percussion instruments for over 20 years.

Duane Edwards, who plays the bass fiddle, is a music graduate of the University of Maine at Augusta and plays in various groups in the area. Eric Winter, the newest addition to Primo Cubano, has been singing all his life and has been studying Spanish since the age of 12.

Catch the Primo Cubano heat at 8 p.m. Feb. 17 at One Longfellow Square (corner of State and Congress) in Portland. Call 761-1757.

Inanna, Sisters in Rhythm

Nearly 20 years ago I ran into an interesting ensemble at one of Maine’s many summer festivals: four women wearing brightly colored dresses and beating furiously on drums. They called themselves Inanna, Sisters in Rhythm, and they advertised themselves as inspired by the ancient traditions of West African drumming and percussion.

They certainly attracted quite a bit of attention. I was fascinated by the concept and the novelty, and privately figured they’d last a season or two.

I was certainly wrong on my estimate of Inanna’s longevity. This Saturday they’ll release the sixth CD in their 18-year history with a party and performance at One Longfellow Square.

The current lineup is little changed from the original group: Lizzy Direcktor, Shirsten Lundblad, Annagret Baier and Tori Morrill. Inanna was originally created by the participants of a drum class in Alna some 20 years ago. Since that time, Inanna has recorded and released five, full-length albums and has performed at numerous percussion festivals and community events.

Inanna’s core concept remains the same. The quartet is deeply dedicated to the education and cultivation of peace and sharing among cultures through the power of music. Using percussion and vocals, Inanna explores the heritage and rhythms of West Africa through original arrangements and compositions invoking ancient traditions of the drum.

As a group, Inanna members have studied percussion with Karamo Sabally of Gambia, West Africa; John McDowell of the Afro-jazz fusion group Mamma Tongue; Yaya Diallo, master drummer from Mali and the author of “The Healing Drum”; Layne Redmond, author of “When the Drummers Were Women,” and Famoudou Konate, one of the world’s best known and recognized djembe players.

Inanna takes its name from an ancient Sumerian goddess, who held reign more than 4,000 years ago during a period when it is believed that drummers and dancers were predominantly women. The ensemble chose the name of this ancient goddess to express their ties with earlier traditions.

The new CD is titled “Jewel in the Heart.” Here’s how the Inanna artists describe their newest release:

“We feel that the joy experienced through the music of the drum, our voices, and their overtones is carrying us into the coming era – one of peace, boundless creative expression and abundance for all. Our music is our offering, creating songs that express a vision of hope, of healing, of strength, and solidarity. Music is our common language on this planet, a way to appreciate our commonalities, our diversity, our traditions, and the fusion of those sounds and rhythms and harmonies that bring us joy. This CD is our invitation to you to join us in this vision and intention.”

Inanna, Sisters in Rhythm holds a CD release party at One Longfellow Square (corner of State and Congress in Portland) at 8 p.m. Feb. 18. Call 761-1757.

Boston Public Quartet

I’m not sure where the globetrotting Portland String Quartet is this week, but the foursome won’t be in Portland this Sunday for the third concert of the 2011-2012 subscription season.

Instead, the PSQ has invited a young group from greater Boston to substitute.

The Boston Public Quartet performs in and around the Hub, and is the resident ensemble of musiConnects – a nonprofit organization focused on creating social change through chamber music. Currently the BPQ maintains an ongoing music education and performance residency at the Chittick School in Mattapan, offering a unique chamber music curriculum aimed at nurturing excellence in students, connecting families to their children’s education and creating a community of musicians, students, teachers and families.

Three works are on this Sunday’s program. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet in E-flat Major and Johannes Brahms’ String Quartet No. 3 in B-flat Major are familiar masterpieces of chamber music. The third will be a Maine premiere. Like the PSQ, the BPQ has a interest in contemporary compositions. This Sunday’s choice will be “Themes and Variations for String Quartet,” a 2009 work by Daniel Sedgwick. The composer, who has a long association with a southern New Hampshire chamber music festival, will be present and he’ll deliver the pre-concert lecture.

Catch the Boston Public Quartet at 2 p.m. Feb. 19 at Woodford’s Congregational Church, 202 Woodford St. in Portland. Call the LARK Society at 761-1522. The pre-concert talk is slated for 1 p.m.

Sidebar Elements

Inanna, Sisters in Rhythm is a quartet of African-inspired Maine percussionists who have been playing together for 20 years. Inanna’s latest CD will be released this Saturday at One Longfellow Square in Portland.