Calle Sur is living proof that the terms “Latinx,” Latino,” or “Hispanic” can’t be summarized. Calle Sur is a combination of the multifaceted experiences of being Latin American, of coming from urban versus rural settings, of being of multiracial and multicultural origin, of bringing to the table female and male perspectives.
Ed East is Panamanian. His grandparents moved to Panama from Barbados, and his grandfather worked for the railroad during the construction of the Panama Canal. Ed’s upbringing in Panama City meant noise, hustle, bustle, and those chaotic smells and sights so characteristic of any Latin American metropolis. It also meant a fierce need for individuality and lots of musical innovation and creativity.
Karin Stein, his Colombian partner, brings to the music of Calle Sur the perspective of her rural upbringing. The granddaughter of German immigrants to Colombia, she grew up with no electricity on a remote farm in the eastern Llanos (plains) of Colombia. Her childhood and early teens were marked by the sounds of nature, the chants of cowboys rounding up cattle or milking cows, and her mother singing harmonies with her.
Ed and Karin started collaborating in Iowa, U.S.A., the state in which they have lived since they both arrived independently on students visas in 1980. After 20 years of performing together throughout the U.S.A. and abroad, Calle Sur is celebrating its 20th year with the release of a new album, “Cancún.” The album release concert and 20th year celebration will take place on May 23rd, 2021.
Press for Calle Sur and “Cancún”
In the midst of the Covid pandemic, Latin duo “Calle Sur” celebrates its 20th year with a dose of resilience and the release of “Cancún,” a fresh mix of jazz piano added to their original and traditional Latin repertoire.
Anniversary Celebration and Album Release will take place in the form of a Hybrid Concert on May 23, 2021 at 2pm CT (Chicago).
Sometimes a concert is much more than music. Sometimes it’s a celebration of a special milestone, in this case the 20-year trajectory of Calle Sur, a Latin duo based in the Midwest, comprised of Panamanian Edgar East (vocals, Latin percussion, guitar, flute, trumpet, Venezuelan quitiplás bamboo tubes) and Colombian Karin Stein (vocals, guitar, Andean zampoña pan flutes, Colombian gaita flutes, Venezuelan cuatro). The COVID-19 pandemic nearly halted their 20th anniversary celebration plans, but Karin and Ed decided to start 2021 with renewed hope and the release of a 20th anniversary album, “Cancún,” an exciting variation on their usual repertoire of Latin folk and popular music infused with jazz piano.
Home studios and an appetite for collaborative musical adventure led Ed and Karin to invite four jazz piano talents – Bob Washut, Steve Shanley, and Yazmin Bowers based in Iowa and Wisconsin, and Gianny Laredo, a Cuban living in Cancún, Mexico – to add their individual touches to a collection of original tunes written by Karin, including the title track “Cancún”; traditional music such as the “Alabao de San Antonio” from the Pacific coast of Colombia; and some of the duo’s favorite covers, such as the classic “Alfonsina y el Mar,” by Argentinean luminaries Ariel Ramirez and Felix Luna (1969), and “Smaragdos margara,” by Nicaragua’s duo Guardabarranco (1995). These new arrangements were complemented on bass by Alex Pershounin and Dartanyan Brown, the latter an Iowa jazz-hall-of-famer. The result is, as the cover art of the “Cancún” album suggests, a musically exciting and colorful reflection of the multi-layered backgrounds of the two musicians who comprise Calle Sur.
There will be special guests in attendance at the hybrid 20th anniversary concert on May 23 to help Ed and Karin celebrate and say hello to the virtual audience: members of Chile’s legendary ensemble Inti-Illimani; singer/songwriter-turned-YouTube-phenom Katie James from Colombia; legendary harpist Alfredo Rolando Ortiz from Cuba and the U.S.A.; Costa Rican singer-songwriter Juan Carlos Ureña; and others. All of these artists created arrangements and music videos of some of Karin’s compositions, and those music videos will be premiered at the celebration, along with six official music videos from the “Cancún” album. Karin and Ed will also perform a couple of songs live and interact with the audience.
Karin’s grandparents migrated to Colombia from Germany in 1926, escaping the economic hardships of post-WWI Germany and the years leading up to the Great Depression. She grew up homeschooled and without electricity in the remote Llanos (eastern savannas of Colombia), paying close attention to the sounds and sights of nature, as well as the traditional folk tunes being sung and whistled by the Llanero cowboys. Her family later moved to Costa Rica, and in 1980 she arrived in Iowa on a college scholarship.
Ed’s trajectory started out very differently, though in the end he, too, arrived in Iowa the same year as Karin, also on a college scholarship. Ed’s grandparents moved to Panama from Barbados in the early 1900s, and his grandfather worked for the railroad during the construction of the Panama Canal. Ed’s upbringing in Panama City was thoroughly urban, and the musical influences of his metropolitan upbringing, as well as his subsequent musical studies, gave Ed a broad range of musical chops in jazz, salsa, rock, and classical music. Over thirty years ago, he became co-founder of Orquesta Alto Maíz, Iowa’s first salsa band, whose virtuosity established it as a leader in the Latin music landscape of the Midwest for decades.
Despite a distance of 80 miles between their respective households, exhausting changes in their everyday lives, and the impossibility of rehearsing together indoors for the time being, Ed and Karin have created an exciting piano-and-jazz infused variation on their usual repertoire of Latin folk and popular music, and they’re taking on the year 2021 with renewed hope and the release their 20th anniversary album, “Cancún.”
Calle Sur has been a pioneering presence in Iowa, a state that only slowly incorporated Latin cultures into its identity. For most of its touring history, Calle Sur performed primarily outside of Iowa and enjoyed more of a name elsewhere than in the duo’s home state. In fact, one of the duo’s greatest influences, legendary Chilean ensemble Inti-Illimani, has included the two musicians in concerts in the U.S.A. and Costa Rica, and is creating a music video of one of Karin’s compositions for Calle Sur’s 20th anniversary concert.
By now Iowa has welcomed Latinos into the mainstream, and Calle Sur has become a household name for many Iowans. As Ed and Karin continue to prepare their big celebration, Karin reflects on the last 20 years and speaks about the future: “I want to continue to grow as an artist until I am no longer able to do so. To me, growth means not only improving my musical skills, but more importantly, connecting my craft to a multi-faceted array of people, purposes, and other art forms.” Ed reflects on the duo’s trajectory instead: “The last 20 years were some of the most adventurous years I can recall. Calle Sur traveled and performed on a wide variety of stages and locales. Sometimes we played for a few people, other times for a few thousand. Everywhere we went we made music, we made friends, and we made a difference.”
Hybrid concert: album release and 20th anniversary celebration
Sunday, May 23rd, 2021 – 2 p.m. Central (Chicago, U.S.A.) Time