Music Without Borders loss a blow to Brazilian music fans

The “Music Without Borders” series, which debuted nearly six years ago as an unofficial extension of the World Music Festival Chicago, was like a big, cosmopolitan outdoor party, bringing top international acts to Millennium Park from June to September.

The series was a boon to Brazilian music lovers from the get-go — literally; its very first concert, on July 29, 2006, was headlined by Seu Jorge. Carlinhos Brown was one of the top attractions in 2007, and last August, popular sambista Diogo Nogueira managed to keep people dancing as a torrential downpour drenched the Prtizker Pavillion, as seen in this video.

When the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events announced its summer music lineup last week, “Music Without Borders” was conspicuously absent. No explanation was given, but several blogs have noted that the series was created by former Cultural Affairs programmer Michael Orlove, who was fired last year and is soon leaving town altogether to head the National Endowment for the Arts.

“Music Without Borders” was the main draw for Brazilian acts in Chicago, providing artists touring the U.S. during the summer with a good reason to come to town — a city-sponsored, highly publicized concert at a fantastic venue. And the demise of the program is already having an effect. Chicagoano learned last month that Nogueira was coming back to Chicago in June; we suspected that this visit was linked to “Music Without Borders,” and a call to Nogueira’s media handlers today confirmed that the show has been cancelled.

The good news is that lots of people of every nationality enjoyed “Music Without Borders,” and their voices are reverberating through the Web.

Enter Claudia Urbano of the world music blog Chicago Urbanite, an occasional collaborator (she shot the video above) who launched an online petition to have Music Without Borders reinstated . She says:

We need this kind of programming to foster Chicago’s reputation as a global cultural destination and as a city that promotes inclusion and appreciation for cultural diversity. The Music Without Borders series brought people from diverse ethnic populations and ages together to joyfully celebrate and learn about the beauty of cultural diversity. It also encouraged love for the city and intercultural integration.

The petition, which is being delivered to Michelle Boone, commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, currently has 324 signatures and a goal of 1,000. There’s also a Facebook group called We Want Music Without Borders, which has 1,251 members and counting.

Online activism may not bring “Music Without Borders” back, but neither will doing nothing. We all know that Chicago’s Brazilian community is small, and there are no music promoters catering to it; without the financial and logistical support provided by “Music Without Borders,” major Brazilian artists planning U.S. summer tours are likely to bypass us. If that doesn’t sound good, right now is the time to voice your opinion.

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