Funkadesi Celebrates 20 Years on 12/3

By: Nov. 18, 2016

Funkadesi, Chicago's 10-time award-winning intercultural band, will perform at Old Town School of Folk Music's Gary and Laura Maurer Concert Hall (4544 N Lincoln Ave) on Saturday, December 3 at 5:00 and 8:00 p.m., highlighting their dynamic blend of Indo-Afro-Caribbean music while celebrating 20 years of music-making. Tickets are $9-$50 and are available at or by calling 773-728-6000. The 5:00 p.m. show will be family-friendly.

Funkadesi's performance will feature many local world music artists who have collaborated with the band for the past two decades. The evening will also include a "Transglobal Bazaar" between shows with Indian dance instruction by Bollywood Groove and West African instructors, a hands-on drum circle, soundscapes by DJ WARP, food from Bombay Wraps, and henna artists. Photography of the band from the past 20 years will be on display.

Founder and bassist/sitarist Rahul Sharma says "I'm so proud of the fact that we've stuck it out this long as an independent Chicago band." Sharma also reflects on the closeness of the band, "We're a family." Indeed, the band has known to emanate a one family vibe - both onstage and off. Sharma adds, "Quite simply, we love to play music, we love to be together in front of appreciative fans, and we continue to feed off each other's energy."

Funkadesi fluidly combines East Indian music with reggae, funk, and a variety of Afro-Caribbean music, creating what the band has dubbed the Indo-Afro-Caribbean Connection. This connection seems to appeal to a broad cross-section of fans both within and beyond the South Asian diaspora. Tracks from their latest CD, Yo Baba, has been featured on XM Radio and has received critical acclaim across the country. The band has also been featured on London's BBC radio and mentioned Time Magazine.

Funkadesi is comprised of unprecedentedly diverse band members of Jamaican, African-American, Latino, Indian-American, and European heritages who, as a 10-strong live ensemble, have been enthralling an ever-growing multicultural fan base. This long-running ensemble shows no sign of slowing down, either: recently, for two consecutive years, the band has won theChicago Music Award for "Most Outstanding Group." Also, the Chicago Reader fans have twice selected Funkadesi for theReaders' Choice Award for "Best World Music Group." In this past year's Readers' Choice Award, the band was named, along with Wilco, runner-up in the category "Best Band That's Been Around Forever."

The band's visible diversity - dreadlocks, turbans, men, women, white, brown and black - as well as their music - makes a powerful statement about solidarity, tolerance, and understanding, even capturing the attention of President Barack Obama, during his U.S. Senate run: "Funkadesi really knows how to get a crowd fired up! . . . There's a lot of funk in that desi."

The band's intrigue extends beyond their diversity and their performances. Most band members are artistic/cultural educators, and firmly believe in the role of music in affirming identity and bringing communities together. Congero Carlos Antonio Cornierpoints out, "The main thing is that we're having fun, and the crowd feels that."

It is not lost upon the band the gravity of today's divisive rhetoric our country is facing, culminating in the recent election. Sharma, who is also a Clinical Psychologist who focuses on multicultural competence, notes: "I started this band, partly as a response to how I felt as an Indian-American growing up in this country. The same energy of love and togetherness that has sustained us is all the more fiercely coveted given the current climate." And it seems what fans have cherished is exactly the band's message. Achy Obejas had captured the message of affirming diversity in her 2000 Chicago Tribune review of the band and their debut album: "In a world with a precious balance of rhythm and melody, of black and white and Latino and Asian, of just-for-fun banalities and clever word play, of sexuality and propriety, the house band would have to be Funkadesi."

Funkadesi's prominence as an artistic entity forging a new path for multicultural America is evidenced in two recent book publications have an entire chapter dedicated to the band's relevance in our current cultural landscape: Resounding Afro Asia: Interracial Music and the Politics of Collaboration (2016) (book chapter entitled "Articulating Interracial Space: Funkadesi's 'One Family'; and American Multicultural Studies: Diversity of Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Sexuality (2013) (book chapter entitled "Multicultural Rhythms: Musical and Racial Harmony"). Other benchmarks include performing twice during the Opening Ceremonies for the American Psychological Association National Conference, and leading a conference-wide interactive drumming and dialogue session for the Racial Justice in Praxis Conference at NationAl Lewis University. Funkadesi, as artist-in-residence at Lake Forest College, also led a two-part "Drumming for Social Justice: Forming a Multicultural Drum Circle" event. Recently, Funkadesi's version of Bob Marley's "Real Situation" was selected for renowned world music compilation label -Putumayo World Music, paying tribute to the late great reggae legend. Given children's affinity to the band's music (previous Children's Concerts at Old Town School of Folk Music are always a sell-out show), Funkadesi has added an early, all-ages show for the 20th year celebration.

About Old Town School of Folk Music:

Chicago's Old Town School of Folk Music is the largest community school of the arts in the U.S. and a non-profit organization committed to celebrating American music and global cultures. The school teaches and celebrates music and cultural expressions rooted in the traditions of diverse American and global communities. Founded in 1957, the Old Town School of Folk Music provides a wide range of music, dance, theater, and visual arts courses to people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds. Whatever one's interest, the Old Town School provides broad access to more than 700 accredited class offerings, private lessons and over 400 concerts per year.

The Old Town School opened its Lincoln Square facility in 1998 and expanded in 2012. The Old Town School owns and operates three facilities situated in Lincoln Square and Lincoln Park that include 425-seat and two 150-seat concert halls, 64 classrooms, two music stores, cafe and a resource center. Children's classes are also held at several suburban satellite locations. More information is available at

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