Carbondale Salon showcases six artists Saturday at The Launchpad
Founded in Philadelphia by composer Andrea Clearfield in 1986 and in Aspen by Andrea and Michele Kiley, the Salon performance series features contemporary, classical, jazz, folk, world, spoken word, multimedia, dance, and performance arts and aims to encourage diversity through art, culture, and connecting audiences to the artist and art in an intimate and personal setting.
Local co-curator and host Alya Howe will be presenting this year’s offering, Optimism and Activism, on Saturday at The Launchpad in Carbondale, featuring six new and returning performance artists from Iran, Nigeria, Mexico, and the United States. They will perform poetry, music, dance, film, comedy, and opera.
The artists include: comedian A.J. Finney, songwriter Brad Smith, dancers Claudia and Erik Peña, author José Alcántara, composer and pianist Niloufar Nourbakhsh, and poet/spoken word performer Uche Ogbuji.
A longtime performance artist and valley resident, Howe credited former Aspen business Justice Snow’s owner, Michele Kylie, as “particularly persistent” about finding ways to create programs that support local performing artists. Howe noted that most of the performing arts happening in town prior to that were mostly imported or local bands having to play cover songs.
According to her, the purpose of the Salon is to give artists an outlet to present finished works they have been performing or present works in progress and get immediate feedback from a live audience.
“I do this at least once a year because it’s Important to have people from many different cultures and art forms who are present and talking about the politics of the moment, especially relevant to their country, here in the valley. It’s just magical,” she said.
To that end, she has curated a timely and dynamic group of artists who will be showcasing their work at the upcoming Salon, including Iranian American composer Niloufar Nourbakhsh, who will be performing an opera inspired by Iran’s 2009 Green movement.
The Iranian Green Movement, also called the Persian Awakening or Persian Spring by the Western media, was a political movement that demanded the removal of then-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The protests were the largest in Iran’s history since the Iranian Revolution of 1978-79. Though they started as peaceful and non-violent, many citizens were arrested and died as they progressed and turned more violent.
Nourbakhsh said performing this opera now is timely due to the recent protests in Iran sparked by Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old Kurdish Iranian woman, being killed by the “morality police” in Tehran in September 2022.
“It’s similar to what’s going on in Iran right now but a slightly different context,” Nourbakhsh said. “I think it’s very shocking to see young women in Iran unveil and protest. And, a big part of that is because, in many ways, it was branded as part of the culture, that veiling is part of the culture. And, it very much is not. I really hope that, through the experience of art, people can understand on a different level, what’s happening in Iran in a way that’s different from reading the news cycle.”
The 2009 Green Movement was always something she wanted to address in her music and specifically chose opera as the vehicle because it was “big enough and grand enough a form” to dive into all the complexities and nuances of the story, she said.
She said she’s looking forward to her first trip to the Roaring Fork Valley and sharing her story with the community for the first time.
Boulder-based Nigerian American poet, spoken-word performer and DJ, Uche Ogbuji (more properly Úchèńnà Ogbújí), has never participated in the Salon before but has known Howe for a while and previously performed at Mountain Fair.
Born in Calabar, Nigeria, Ogbújí’s work fuses Igbo culture, European classicism, American Mountain West setting, hip-hop, and afrofuturism. He is a 2022 Boulder County Arts Fellow for Literature and Music.
He always loved music and poetry and always wanted to be a writer but pursued an engineering career because, like many children of immigrants, that’s what was expected of him, he said.
He credited his time at the University of Nigeria in Nsukka, in the northernmost part of the Biafran region of the country, for exposing him to a variety of creative outlets from music to dance to literature and instilling a love of art and performance.
“I always felt like a complete outsider, but I would write, and I would always write with music in my head. I would write with dance, with drama, with all the craziness of Nigeria everywhere,” he said. “It’s been all strung together and mixed in, and that was always my poetry. And, recently, I started to find ways of bringing it to an audience.”
What: Carbondale Salon: Optimism and Activism
When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
Where: The Launchpad,76 South 4th St., Carbondale
More info and tickets: carbondalearts.com
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