About Amina Sanchez

Amina Sanchez is the Associate Director of Programs at the Skirball. Her favorite writers are David Foster Wallace, Alice Walker, and Walter Mosley, all of whom she has had the immense pleasure of introducing on stage at the Skirball. Her musical interest is extremely eclectic, encompassing world music, indie rock, jazz, and electronica.

Sunset Concerts Takes a Trip to the Caribbean

Image by Richard Holder.

Image by Richard Holder.

Listening to the gently joyful, rhythmic title track of Aurelio Martinez’s latest album, Lándini, transports me to the Caribbean. Swept up in and soothed by his hypnotic music and heartfelt vocals, I actually can’t keep from moving and swaying in my office chair. The sound is driven by percussion—most prominently shakers that set the rhythm and pull me into the feeling of the music—while acoustic guitar carries the melody. It feels like a mini-vacation at my desk.

Aurelio is one of the leading advocates for and preservers of Garifuna culture, which encompasses the African and Caribbean Indian traditions of the shipwrecked slaves who intermarried with local natives on the island of St. Vincent. Speaking of the Garifuna culture, Aurelio affirms, “We’re not going to let this culture die, I know I must continue my ancestors’ legacy and find new ways to express it. Few people know about it, but I adore it, and it’s something I must share with the world.” One of the ways Aurelio does so is through the acoustic guitar—a trademark of the Garifuna rhythm and genre of music called paranda. Continue reading

A Musical Family Tree: The Haden Triplets Branch Out

The Haden Triplets will take the Sunset Concerts stage this Thursday night, August 7, at 8:00 p.m. Come early and hear DJ Robert Mora do a set starting at 7:00 p.m.. Photo by Jo McCaughey.

I was really excited when I first heard that The Haden Triplets were going to perform at this year’s Sunset Concerts. These three talented women—Tanya Haden, Rachel Haden, and Petra Haden—have a tremendous artistic range and have done so many unique, eclectic, high-quality projects, on their own and collectively. From collaborations with Beck, Weezer, the Silversun Pickups, and Bette Midler, to touring with Todd Rundgren, to creating an a capella version of The Who’s classic album The Who Sells Out, to their latest project performing their own gorgeous interpretations of classic American country and folk songs—there is nothing these sisters can’t do!

Check out the Haden Triplets performing a recent NPR Tiny Desk concert. Careful! You may end up playing this on repeat, as I have been doing.

I particularly appreciate that they choose to make music as a family and that they are carrying on their family’s rich tradition of music. The Haden Triplets, along with their brother, Josh, of the band Spain, are following in the footsteps of their father, the late legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden, as well as those of their grandparents who performed as The Haden Family when Charlie was a child. Together they are not only preserving an important musical history but also making this music accessible to a new generation. Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Playlist

Beth Lapides on stage—one of her great loves.

Beth Lapides on stage—one of her great loves

Love it or hate it, Valentine’s Day is almost here—again! At the Skirball, we have a tradition of commemorating this special yet infamous (and totally made-up) holiday with a comedy storytelling event hosted by Beth Lapides from Uncabaret: Say the Word: Bleeding Hearts. This year’s show is on February 7 and features humorous and heartfelt stories from writers/comedians Merrill MarkoeCindy Chupack, Richard Kramer, Stirling Gardner, and Lauren Weedman.

So many of our memories of love and relationships are associated with songs that uncannily illustrate our experiences and thus become part of the soundtrack of our lives. I asked comedy maven and goddess of love Beth Lapides to share some tracks from her own life soundtrack by creating a Valentine’s Day playlist. It’s not your typical list of sappy love songs, which is just what we should expect from Beth.

1. Best song to listen to… if you are a senior in high school thinking about taking the next step with your new not really yet a boyfriend, parked outside his dad’s loft, where he is house sitting, while his dad, whose name is Ken, is out of town with his girlfriend named Barbie, and you are thinking about how you are totally not a Barbie, but how you really like this new boy a lot better than the last boy, who did sort of want you to be a Barbie. And you are feeling hopeful but a little melancholy because in the best-case scenario it goes amazingly and you end up falling in love and then having to leave each other at the end of the year. “Suzanne” by James Taylor

2. Best song to listen to… if you are lying in bed weeping from unbearable heartbreak and can’t imagine a time when you will ever feel differently and yet you know you will feel differently, but maybe you won’t, but you definitely will, but you might actually have to change and figure out a way to make yourself feel better, but you are admitting that feeling pain is at least feeling and you have been trying to numb yourself for the past decade. “Prayer of St. Francis” by Sarah McLachlan

3. Best song to listen to… if you are driving south on Laurel Canyon in the late afternoon light with the thrilling feeling of leaving a dead relationship and the excitement of starting over. “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield

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Sunset Concerts at the Skirball Week 4: Mamak Khadem and Ensemble

The Skirball’s Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music—continue this week with beloved Iranian singer Mamak Khadem, accompanied by an ensemble of world-class musicians. Each week, SkirBlog will feature a preview of the upcoming performer written by a member of our Programs department. Read about the band, view photos and videos … then make your way here on Thursday to watch the show in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. Mamak Khadem and Ensemble, this Thursday, August 15, at 8:00 p.m. Mamak-Khadem-179

Persian vocalist and musician Mamak Khadem is one of my favorite performers in Los Angeles. Her distinctive, passionate voice is stunning and clear—it truly opens my heart. Aside from her voice, what I love about Mamak is her versatility and her ability to connect different cultures and music traditions to create something new and unique. Throughout her career, Mamak’s work has primarily focused on reimagining Persian music and poetry and revitalizing it for the next generation of Iranians, as well as introducing new art forms to a cross-cultural audience.

Mamak-Khadem-230While she has performed several times at the Skirball—whether as a member of Axiom of Choice, as a solo artist with her own ensemble, or as a guest of another artist—each time Mamak performs she brings something new and invigorating to the stage. I’m excited that she has developed a special concert of upbeat dance music, blending Iranian, Armenian, and Greek traditions, for the Skirball’s Sunset Concert series on August 15.

Along with her soaring vocals, Mamak employs rhythmically entrancing percussion and some very cool Middle Eastern instruments in her music. My favorite is the zurna, a wind instrument that to me sounds like a magic horn. Continue reading

Kicking Off Sunset Concerts with The Belle Brigade!

Summertime at the Skirball means Sunset Concerts—FREE Thursday night performances of the best in American and world music! To celebrate, each week a different member of the Skirball’s Program Department will preview the upcoming performer, giving a little insight as to how and why they were perfect for this year’s series. Read about the band, view photos, watch videos … then make your way here each Thursday to see the band live and in person in our magnificent outdoor courtyard. First up: indie band The Belle Brigade, this Thursday, July 25, at 8:00 p.m.

The Belle Brigade. Photo by John Peets.

The Belle Brigade. Photo by John Peets.

I saw The Belle Brigade for the first time in April 2011, when they opened for k.d. lang at the Troubadour. I hadn’t heard of them before then, but the buzz began in the line to enter the venue. We happened to be standing next to some of their family friends who were excited to see the performance. These enthusiastic, proud friends talked up the band’s folky pop, Fleetwood Mac sound and gorgeous harmonies—reminiscent of the Beach Boys and Simon and Garfunkel. I admit to being somewhat skeptical, despite sibling bandleaders Barbara and Ethan Gruska’s impressive musical lineage: their father, Jay Gruska, is an accomplished songwriter and their grandfather is legendary composer John Williams.

Once inside, my husband and I rushed to the front—we made it to third row, center stage—to position ourselves for k.d.’s set, still more than hour away. When The Belle Brigade took the stage, I thought, “Okay, let’s see what these guys can do.” Continue reading

Be Still My Bleeding Heart

Champagne and roses may be synonymous with Valentine's Day, but this year, we recommend celebrating with Say the Word!

There’s a bit of a lull after the flurry of celebrations and activities of the holiday season, until suddenly, thoughts of Valentine’s Day begin to come into mind (or loom ahead, as the case may be).

At the Skirball we’re excited to celebrate Valentine’s Day with a special edition of our popular Say the Word comedic reading series entitled Bleeding Hearts, a little twist on the typical hearts-and-flowers motif. Whether you love Valentine’s Day or dread it, there’s something for you in this show. Say the Word: Bleeding Hearts is February 8—about a week before Valentine’s Day—so you have time to find a date!

I asked our Say the Word host, resident comedy maven, and goddess of love, Beth Lapides, to share some of her insights into the holiday and the Bleeding Hearts program.

Valentine’s Day: fake holiday or important day dedicated to expressing love?
Totally fake. But also, a very important day for expressing love! So, both. And that’s what keeps us interested in Valentine’s Day or any of the other Hallmark holidays—the contradiction of the authentic urge and the repulsive fake commerciality. The trick is to find ways to satisfy the one part while making fun of the other. And Say the Word is all about combining the heartfelt and the ironic twist. So, speaking of Cupid, it’s a match made in heaven!

I have one theory about Valentine’s Day. It’s actually a manifestation of our desperate longing for red in the midst of winter bleakness. Continue reading

A Little (Late) Night Music… Into the Night Is Back, Featuring Sea Wolf and Geographer!

See Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf at Into the Night: Playtime—on Friday the 13th, no less!

See Alex Brown Church of Sea Wolf at Into the Night: Playtime—on Friday the 13th, no less! Photo by Mia Kirby.

Music, especially discovering new music, is one of my greatest passions. My husband and I are music fiends. We have extremely eclectic tastes and appreciate all kinds of musical genres and styles from all over the world. His 160 gigabyte iPod Classic is full. Our iTunes library contains 72 days, 10 hours, and 32 minutes’ worth of music. That’s 25,108 songs.

As much as we enjoy collecting music and listening to recordings, there’s nothing like being at a live show, whether it’s an intimate club gathering, a stadium show, or one of the myriad venue options in between. Aside from the Skirball, some of my favorite small venues are the Bootleg Bar/Theater and the Troubadour. For medium-sized to larger venues, I like the Wiltern, Gibson Amphitheatre, and Greek Theatre.

When I’m at a concert, I get swept up, allowing the emotion and power of the music and lyrics to envelop me. I love feeling the energy between the performers and the audience. My May 22 Facebook status update—which I posted during the Lianne LaHavas show at the Bootleg—said it all: “If there’s something better than music please enlighten me!”

I haven’t tallied up the live shows we’ve attended in the first half of 2012 yet, but we’re off to a pretty good start with acts like Lianne LaHavas, Bahamas, Quantic + Alice Russell, and Robert Glasper Experiment. My better half is especially adept at scouting new sounds for us to check out and will frequently insist that we go out to see a show even after a long workday. He’s got a great track record, and has led me to discover some of my favorite bands. In 2011, we attended more than 100 performances, ranging from solo singer/songwriters in bars and clubs to major productions like the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl. (The 2012 PBJF took place just a few weeks ago and Sheila E. totally stole the show with her electrifying performance and beautiful samba dancers!) One weekend last November, we saw Noel Gallagher of Oasis fame at Royce Hall and powerful Pakistani singer Riffat Sultana at the Skirball. We loved both experiences, delighting in the contrast.

With all of the amazing live shows we enjoyed last year, one of the best nights of 2011 was the Skirball’s Into the Night: Music and Magic late-night party. (It was also the night that got me back on coffee!)

Around 1,000 people showed up for a great evening of music, magic, art, and film. The roaming magicians and signature cocktails were big hits, too! For more pictures of last year’s event, scroll down…

Around 1,000 people showed up for a great evening of music, magic, art, and film. The roaming magicians and signature cocktails were big hits, too! For more pictures of last year’s event, scroll down…Photo by Jared Steven.

Excited that DJ Anthony Valadez will be back this year! Here he is last year in a moody haze of lights.

Excited that DJ Anthony Valadez will be back this year! Here he is last year in a moody haze of lights. Photo by Jared Steven.

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Report from Secret Headquarters: Craig Thompson Loves Gloria Estefan

Graphic novel and comic book retailer Secret Headquarters (SHQ) are not only big fans of Craig Thompson but seem to know a lot about him. In a blog post expressing excitement that Craig will be at the Skirball late next week, our SHQ friends shared this funny “little primer” on our illustrious speaker.

Born: 1975 in Traverse City, Michigan Continue reading

Shalom, We’ve Been Waiting for You… and We Have a Few Questions

Hope: A Tragedy book coverFor the past few years, several colleagues have repeatedly asked me to schedule Shalom Auslander to speak at the Skirball, suggesting him for this program or that, and sending around his hilarious, irreverent Tablet Magazine articles and essays. So when his publicist called a few months ago to tell me about Auslander’s book tour in support of his debut novel, Hope: A Tragedy, I didn’t have to think twice. Yes, of course we would like to have him speak! Auslander is a prolific writer, known for his story collection, Beware of God; his memoir, Foreskin’s Lament; and his regular contributions to Tablet, This American Life, GQ, The Guardian, and The New York Times. But he had yet to publish a novel. The world has been waiting! So much so that I really couldn’t disagree with his publisher’s proclamation that the publication of Hope: A Tragedy is a “highly-anticipated literary event.” It is! For those who are familiar with Auslander’s work, the novel features his trademark edginess, dark humor, and outlandish characters and situations. There’s also a deep underlying insight. Janet Maslin does a great job of discussing the book’s themes in her New York Times review.

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