By Ruth Nerhaugen
Red Wing has been invited to help provide a real Midwestern USA experience for a group of musicians coming to town next week.
Ifrikya Spirit, a music group from Algeria in West Africa, will arrive Thursday and participate in several public events leading up to their concert at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15 at the Sheldon Theatre.
“We have an opportunity here in Red Wing to share with our guests what life is like here,” said Sheldon Executive Director Bonnie Schock. “And we get to learn from them at the same time.”
Most of the six musicians have never been to the United States before, and the other stops on their tour are in much bigger cities.
On Tuesday they performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and on Thursday they were at the Lincoln Center in New York City. Just before coming to Red Wing, Ifrikya Spirit will perform at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
They haven’t been to any potlucks or kayak trips on the Mississippi River. Yet.
But those are among free activities arranged by the Sheldon and local partners for the visiting musicians. The public is invited to join the following events:
• Oct. 13 — Lunch and Learn, noon to 1:15 p.m. at the St. James Hotel.
“Discover how the plucked thump of tradition moves in counterpoint to the smooth thrum of metal strings,” Sheldon officials said, “as Ifrikya Spirit introduces their unique blend of musical tradition and innovation. Bring a lunch.”
• Oct. 13 — Jam Session, 7-9 p.m., Sheldon Theatre, 443 W. Third St.
Mike Arturi of the Lovin’ Spoonful and the Universal Music Center will be host to a musical jam session across cultures. Local musicians are invited to join the jam; everyone is welcome to come and listen to the improvised program. Musicians should call the Sheldon and sign up.
• Oct. 14 — Diwan Potluck: Food and Fellowship, 6-7:30 p.m. in Christ Church Fellowship Hall, 321 West Ave.
“Diwan is food, fellowship, song, and the spiritual core of the music,” officials said. Local people are invited to share American food traditions with the Algerian guests, potluck style, for an evening of cross-cultural food and fellowship.
Oct. 15 — Mighty Mississippi Kayak Adventure, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., launch location to be announced.
“Pair up with a member of Ifrikya Spirit on a fall tour of the Mississippi, guided by the Red Wing Environmental Learning Center.” The ELC will provide a limited number of kayaks; make a reservation through Red Wing Community Education at https://redwing.cr3.rschooltoday.com/public/home/.
In addition, the musicians will make a visit to Red Wing Schools the morning of Oct. 14, giving a short performance and opening up to questions from students.
“I think they’re going to have a really great time,” said Lisa Booth, whose company is general manager for an organization called Center Stage that is responsible for the tour. “They are open and outgoing people.”
Center Stage is a public diplomacy initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
“The idea behind Center Stage is citizen diplomacy through the arts,” Booth said. It provides an opportunity for others “to see Americans as we really are,” and at the same time gives Americans a chance to meet people from other parts of the world.
Because they wanted the musicians to visit a variety of communities while in the U.S., they were pleased with the opportunity to offer them “a real Midwest experience” in Red Wing, Booth said.
It’s also a first for the Sheldon to organize an extended residency with such a variety of activities for the artists, Schock said, describing the program as cultural diplomacy.
“We’re really excited to have them,” she added. “These folks are the real deal,” and their music will provide a bridge to many cultures and traditions. “It’s like peeking into a rock band from the other side of the world.”
Anyone with questions should call the Sheldon at 651-388-8700.