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FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: Mirror Butterfly by the Afro Yaqui Music Collective

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: Mirror Butterfly by the Afro Yaqui Music Collective


October 8, 2019

To: Listings/Critics/Features
From: Jazz Promo Services

Press contacts:
John MacElwee – 718-518-6539, jmacelwee@hostos.cuny.edu
Jim Eigo – 845-986-1677, jim@jazzpromoservices.com

Mirror Butterfly 
by the Afro Yaqui Music Collective

A Jazz Opera that depicts Immigrants, Indigenous peoples, and pan-African Revolutionaries overcoming climate change and capitalism and building a new world where many worlds fit

Best Alternative Album

out on innova Recordings


"Percussively driven and mighty." — WNYC New Sounds
"Fully orchestrated and magnificently realized." — Seven Days
"This is boundaries being pushed in a well conceived way." — Midwest Record
"Straddles all these styles with grace and vitality." — Pittsburgh Current
"With Mirror Butterfly: the Migrant Liberation Movement Suite, the members of Pittsburgh’s Afro Yaqui Music Collective have created something even bigger than themselves." — Pittsburgh City Paper
"Mirror Butterly: The Migrant Liberation Movement Suite is much more than an album. It's music with a purpose that's meant to challenge." — 91.3 WYEP

"An encounter with the Afro Yaqui Music Collective may be the most inspiring musical experience of your life."

– Robin D. G. Kelley, author of


Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original



Listen online:

Innova 029

1. Enter the Mirrors
2. Interlude
3. Overture of the Mushroom
4. Overture of the Sword
5. Interlude
6. Mulberry Tree
7. Orchid Mantis
8. Mulberry Tree (Reprise)
9. Interlude
10. Attack of the Drone
11. The Workers’ March
12. Stoneflower Requiem
13. Four Mirrored Butterfly
14. The Sisters Unite
15. The Sword Dissolves
16. The Rising Sun
17. A Stone Against Time
Lead Vocals: Kelsey Robinson (Vocals Track #6-8), 
Nejma Nefertiti (Vocals Track #11-12), Gizelxanath 
Rodriguez (Vocals #13-16,), Marina Calendar (Deer 
Narrator) and Drew Bayura (Sword vocal)
Chorus: Morgan Hawkins, Jason Gordon, Katharine 
Carlson, Gizelxanath Rodriguez
Saxophones: Ben Opie, Patrick Breiner, Roger Romero, Ben Barson
Strings: Jin Yang (Pipa) Aidana Yntykbayeva (Kobyz) Claudia Quintana (Violin) Ahmer’e Blackman (Cello)
Rhythm Section: Beni Rossman (Bass) Samuel Okoh-Boateng (Keyboard) Seth Yoder (Keyboard) Bernard Grobman (Guitar), Brian Riordan (Electronics)
Percussion: Julian Powell, Hugo Cruz, Jeff Berman
Conductor: Federico Garcia-De Castro
Composed by Benjamin Barson
Libretto by Ruth Margraff with contributions by Nejma Nefertiti on Tracks 7-8



Around the turn of the millenium, the humanitarian crisis through which we are passing tipped a threshold: climate refugees began to outpace war refugees. Some 25 million were displaced in 1999 due to famine, drought, and torrential storms. So enters Afro Yaqui Music Collective’s debut album, Mirror Butterfly: the Migrant Liberation Movement Suite,  which dramatizes and musicalizes years of interviews and movement building with environmental and ecosocialist activists in Mexico, Syria, Kurdistan, and Tanzania. A 25-piece postcolonial big band delivers three portrait arias, woven in what poetic playwright Ruth Margraff calls “vocal art,” all accompanied by martial arts Afro-Asian choreography (Peggy Myo-Young Choy). The result been hailed as a “praise-song to the wretched of the Earth.” (Marcus Rediker, author, The Slave Ship) The staged work has travelled both activist and performing arts spaces: it has been presented at the Kennedy Center in DC, at the Mesopotamian Water Forum in Iraq, at the New Hazlett Theater in Pittsburgh (where it was incubated) and now, is available in this album  form–a global siren call for a new world where many worlds fit.
Dozens of artists contributed to this production whose influences span four continents. Jin Yang (of Silk Road) is featured on pipa in an East-West string quartet; Hugo Cruz (formerly of Síntesis) is featured on congas, bata drums and timbales in a pan-African rhythm section; a saxophone quartet, featuring Ben Opie and Patrick Breiner (Battle Trance) and a six piece choir (led by soprano and co-bandleader Gizelxanath Rodriguez) trade rounds. The music, written by baritone saxophonist Ben Barson, defies expectation, reimagining the past four decades of jazz innovation from Julius Hemphill to Fred Ho. Barson, in fact, is the heir of Fred’s beloved instrument. Barson’s polyphonic, polyrhythmic approach is meant to communicate the vibrant diversity of the migrant experience. Chromatic and seductively jagged choral harmonies, Afro-Asian orchestration, lush voicings by the saxes, all thwart destructive primitivist cliches. Infectious grooves with 4½, 5, and 15 beats per measure formidably defy the oppressive geometry of western modernity. 
“With wide-eyed zeal, Afro Yaqui Music Collective delivers a dynamic new opera with Mirror Butterfly — a work that merges indigenous musics and movement styles with the more Western traditions of jazz, funk, and hip-hop. The results are thrilling, head-bob-worthy, and deep. The band grooves and plays like a unit. On its own, the music requires some processing and unpacking. It begs for repeat listens, and would be a worthy addition to anyone’s record shelf.” –David Bernado, Recital
“[W]illing to go where no one had before… Barson brings a sense of adventurousness to his own music and to the band he co-leads with his wife, Gizelxanath Rodriguez: the Afro Yaqui Music Collective.” — Harry Funk, the Mt. Lebanon Almanac.

"The Afro Yaqui Music Collective is nothing short of pure, uncut sonic radical love.  These extraordinary artists have returned this thing called ‘jazz’ back to its real roots—to the earth, to the sky, to the women who produced and protected a people’s culture. Ben Barson, Gizelxanath Rodriguez, and the crew have committed to making liberation music—which is to say, music without borders or boundaries; future music from the well of the past that’s always on time; joyful music that swings and sings and sometimes stings but always keeps us dancing toward freedom. Follow them. Don’t miss them. An encounter with the Afro Yaqui Music Collective may be the most inspiring musical experience of your life."

– Robin D. G. Kelley, author of
Thelonious Monk: The Life and Times of an American Original

*100% of the album's sales will go to benefit "NAMAKASIA RADIO," the medium of communication of Yaqui River defense in the town of Vicam, in the territory of the Yaqui Tribe, based in Sonora, Mexico.*

Ben Barson

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T: 845-986-1677 / F: 845-986-1699 
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