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Bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and Baroque group Tempesta di Mare are among USArtists Int'l grantees

Jamaaladeen Tacuma during a trip to Morocco in 2016.
Sound Evidence
courtesy of the artist
Jamaaladeen Tacuma during a trip to Morocco in 2016.

Jamaaladeen Tacuma, the inexhaustible bassist-bandleader, and Tempesta di Mare, the impeccable Baroque orchestra and chamber ensemble, are among 27 new grantees in the second round of the 2023 USArtists International (USAI) program, which supports performances and tours by notable American artists at festivals abroad.

USAI grantees are selected through a two-part panel process. (Full disclosure: I served on the second panel.) Tempesta and Tacuma, both based in Philadelphia, join a distinguished list of awardees in the disciplines of dance and theater as well as music. This round will distribute $295,530 to USAI grantees, who will perform on six continents; the program has awarded more than $10 million in grants since its inception in 2006.

The USAI program's stated aim is to support American performing artists on global stages; "to support engagements that develop and expand both the careers and artistic goals of U.S. performers by providing connections with presenters, curators, and fellow artists; and to promote justice in the arts community by elevating the diverse voices contributing to the vibrant array of creative expression in the United States."

Tacuma's grant will support travel to the Tanja Fraja festival in Morocco — a repeat visit to that country, following a 2016 trip to the Gnaoua World Music Festival, which inspired his album Gnawa Soul.

"This trip will serve to be a continuation of learning the language of the music and the culture of Morocco," Tacuma tells WRTI. He is composing new material for that purpose, and intends to document every aspect of the trip with a future release in mind.

Tempesta di Mare will appear at the 17th International Fasch Festival in Zerbst/Anhalt, Germany — a leading Baroque summit named after Johann Friedrich Fasch, a German violinist and composer who spent most of his career in Zerbst, working as a court Kapellmeister. Tempesta di Mare, which has performed more than 25 of Fasch's orchestral works, will open this year's festival, the first held in person since 2019.

The ensemble will also be awarded the city’s Fasch Prize at the festival — the first time that this award is being bestowed on a non-European ensemble. Tempesta di Mare will record its fourth all-Fasch orchestral album at the former Riding Hall of the castle, which now serves as the city's Municipal Hall. (The album will be released on Chandos Records in the fall of 2024.)

Andrew Kahl/Andrew Kahl / Wonderful Machine

Among the other new USAI grantees are leading chamber ensembles like Kronos Quartet, TAK Ensemble, and Third Coast Percussion; folkloric groups like Los Hacheros and Terrance Simeon and the Zydeco Experience; and experimental improvisers like composer and percussionist Sarah Hennies, vocalist Amirtha Kidambi (with her band Elder Ones), and saxophonist Ernest Dawkins (with Live the Spirit Residency). For a full list of grantees, visit the official website of Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation.

USArtists International is a program of Mid Atlantic Arts, with generous funding from the NEA, the Mellon Foundation, and The Trust for Mutual Understanding. The third and final deadline for the 2023 USAI program year is Wednesday, March 29, for projects taking place between July 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024. Find more information here.

Nate Chinen has been writing about music for more than 25 years. He spent a dozen of them working as a critic for The New York Times, and helmed a long-running column for JazzTimes. As Editorial Director at WRTI, he oversees a range of classical and jazz coverage, and contributes regularly to NPR.