Bamako*Chicago Sound System

50 3Arts supporters
$4,010 raised of $4,000 goal
0 Days 0:00:00 LEFT
Funded on June 23, 2017
    • 100% contributed

As a musician, I’ve dreamed for years about bringing two artistic communities together: Chicago’s modern jazz with the traditional sounds and instrumentation of Bamako, Mali. In 2014-15 I had the opportunity to collaborate with West African kora master, Ballaké Sissoko in France and it was one of the most musically transformative experiences of my life. Without words there was great musical understanding between Ballaké and his friends and the Black Earth Ensemble group that I lead. It was magic and opened doors for cultural learning between us. I’m one of many African American artists who romanticize a connection to African culture, but a lot of that is in the dream world. To witness that connection being made real, to have a musical conversation with artists who care as much about music as we do, is something truly special. Ever since that experience, I’ve wanted to bring Ballaké and his group to Chicago in order to further this musical collaboration and share it with others in our city, including young people who may never before have heard the rich traditions of Malian music.

With Bamako*Chicago Sound System, I am raising funds to support an extended stay and expansive programming with Ballaké and his group. This will include visiting youth in Chicago Public Schools, conducting a workshop for Chicago musicians, and developing a new collaborative musical piece with the Black Earth Ensemble that will premiere this fall at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival. In today’s world, we all know the importance of creating opportunities and platforms that promote understanding between cultures and keep our hearts open to welcoming new friends from other parts of the world. Music is a perfect way for sharing stories. With a project of this scale, we’ve made some great strides already such as securing funding from the MacArthur Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and a partnership with Ravinia Festival’s “Guest Artists in the Classroom” series. But we need more help and would love for you to jump on our train and be a part of this adventure. Thank you for helping to make this project the best it can possibly be!

About This Project

This project will bring three amazing Malian musicians to Chicago, including kora player Ballaké Sissoko, balafonist Fassery Diabete, and vocalist Fatima Kouyaté. Working in Mali’s griot tradition, Ballaké is an artist from a musical lineage that carries countless stories of families from his home region.  He and his group will stay in Chicago during September 14-26. While here, they will share their musical gifts and children’s songs with youth in Chicago Public Schools, we will hold open rehearsals at Hamilton Park, and Ballaké and I will do a special presentation open to all audiences. We will also work closely with the Black Earth Ensemble to develop a new piece of music that interweaves sounds of the Chicago jazz legacy and the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) with traditional Malian sounds and culture.  

We will videotape the workshops and rehearsals and the performance with a goal of producing a documentary that captures the stories and experiences that emerge from this unique cultural exchange. The project will culminate with the world premiere of the new music at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on September 23, 2017 in partnership with the City of Chicago’s World Music Festival.

At this point, we are excited about what our collaboration will sound like and what discoveries we will make. We hope you will join us on this journey that inspires a new musical conversation and a cultural collision that can unite audiences of jazz, world music, and Black culture. 


Bamako = Ballake Sissoko kora, Fassery Diabete balafon, Fatima Kouyate vocals

Black Earth Ensemble = Jeff Parker guitar, Mankwe Ndosi vocals, Joshua Abrams bass, Jovia Armstrong percussion, Nicole Mitchell flutes!!

Thank yous

Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.

  • $10
    Personal thank you on social media and a free download of London Solo Performance ($10.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $50
    Your name acknowledged as a supporter in the printed program for the world premiere performance. ($50.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $100
    All of the above, plus a signed poster by the ensemble. ($100.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $300
    Your name listed in the credits for the video documentary, and all of the above. ($300.00 is tax deductible.)
  • $500
    Recognition as a music commissioner in the printed program and documentary credits, reserved VIP seating for you and a guest at the HPJF performance, and a signed poster ($500.00 is tax deductible.)

Nicole Mitchell

Nicole Mitchell is an award-winning creative flutist, composer, bandleader, and educator. Having emerged from Chicago’s innovative music scene in the late 90s, Mitchell makes music that celebrates contemporary African American culture. Inspired by the idea of bridging the familiar with …

View Nicole Mitchell's profile
  • Update 1: Thanks for our first supporters!
    Posted on April 27, 2017


    I wanted to send out a huge thank you to our first supporters of Bamako*Chicago!!  Thanks to Michael Green, Irwin Hoffman, Arlene and Larry Dunn, Mike Weston and my hubby Calvin Gantt.  You are helping us to reach our goal.  We still have a ways to go, so please help spread the word to your friends. It's an honor to have you all on board!  

    Update 2: Moving right along!!
    Posted on May 17, 2017


    Huge Thanks for our second big wave of supporters, including Jean Ann Durades, Lauren Deutsch, Shari Noland, Robert Quashie, Gilberto DeLeon, Carlos Snieder, Molly Jones, Christopher Harris, Janis Lane-Ewart, Jason Guthartz, and Miles Wong!!!  Thanks so much for your generosity!  This is my first time doing a fundraiser and your support for Bamako*Chicago Project is super encouraging. Please look out for your email with a link to download my free solo flute album from London. 

    For a video update, click HERE


    Update 3: Almost there!
    Posted on June 20, 2017


    Wow! We're almost there!  Thank you so much for all that have gotten us this far!!  It means so much to me that you all have taken the time and effort to help us with this really special project.  Just eeking towards the finish-line now!  If you can reach out to any friends to help us there, it would be such a blessing. 

    • Thank you to the following for contributing to 3Arts with the recommendation that we support this project.

    • Mike Weston

    • Lawrence Dunn

    • Michael Green

    • Irwin Hoffman

    • Calvin Gantt

    • Robert Quashie

    • J A Durades

    • Irwin Hoffman

    • Gilberto DeLeon

    • Carlos Snaider

    • Miles Wong

    • Jason Guthartz

    • Lauren Deutsch

    • Janis Lane-Ewart

    • Molly Jones

    • Shari Noland

    • Aaya McDaniel

    • Christopher Harris

    • Tomeka Reid

    • Barbara Koenen

    • Tushar Samant

    • Dan Melnick

    • Brian Keigher

    • Fay Victor

    • Mike Wing

    • Mark Enterline

    • Robert Quashie

    • Regina Harris Baiocchi

    • Tom Ginsburg

    • Irene Borger

    • sara serpa

    • abina manning

    • Rose Parisi

    • Don Meckley

    • Sara Slawnik

    • Adelheid Mers

    • Cauleen Smith

    • Alex Milani

    • Sharan Strange

    • Shanta Nurullah

    • Tomeka Reid

    • Leah J Rogers

    • Chavunduka Sevanhu

    • Mark Maxwell

    • Justin Lamonea

    • Fred L Peterson

    • Don Glasgo

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Anonymous Supporter

    • Jon Satrom

make it work


3AP Presenting Partner:

  Joyce Logo

 Additional support provided by: 

Department of Cultural Affairs logo  Illinois Arts Council