News and Media
June 28, 2017The Oakland Press & The Macomb DailyIn Transit Detroit puts the world’s best musicians at center stage
You know that feeling? When people discover something so incredible they want to share it with the world? A new restaurant with great food or an out-of-the-way antique shop filled with treasures that nobody knew existed?
It’s that contagious joy that has audiences looking forward to Sean Blackman’s In Transit Detroit: China Detroit Fusion concert, June 29 at The Garden Theater in Detroit.
“It’s like OMG! I had the most delicious meal in the world,” said Blackman, 47, of Clawson, and creator of the monthly world concert series. “That is how I want people to feel about my concerts. I am pulling the curtain back on all of these amazing and talented musicians that we didn’t know existed in our backyard.”
The concerts are held on the last Thursday of the month at the historic Garden Theater, a venue was chosen by Blackman for its acoustics and its ability to provide audiences with a safe and family friendly atmosphere. At the heart of every show is a Detroit house band made up of some of the area’s finest musicians including Blackman and his mentor Larry Fratangelo, 64, of Clinton Township, a percussionist teacher and performer who has worked with everyone from Aretha Franklin and Kid Rock to The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Prince. Detroit guitarist Steve Caldwell is also expected to perform with the house band.
What makes the concerts magical and has people talking about everything from a Spanish guitar and African kora to a Syrian oud and Chinese guzheng is the fusion of music from around the world with Detroit’s jazz and funk or rock and roll.
This week’s concert is all about China.
The featured artist is Xiao Dong Wei, who has been playing the erhu (China’s two-stringed violin) since she was 5-years-old and a student at the prestigious Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.
“She also plays the guzheng (aka lap harp) and sings,” Blackman said. “Both are ancient instruments that emulate the sounds of China.”
Tickets are $20 and $30 in advance or $25 and $35 at the door.
Those who attend not only get a taste of Chinese music and dancing but a mini shopping bazaar of Chinese paintings and other artisan pieces as well as Chinese inspired cuisine.
“It’s a great way to bring people together and explore different music and cultures,” said Fratangelo, who hosted the interview with Blackman. “Sean seeks out different musicians from different cultures who live and work here in the Detroit area.”
“And these musicians are not just OK. They are virtuosic!” said Blackman, whose idea for the concerts grew out of the success of his own wildly popular concerts at varying venues and a lifelong appreciation of everybody’s music.
“As a teenager I became insatiable for instruments that I hadn’t heard before. I would dive deep and in the process found out that every country has its own Billy Holiday, its own Aretha Franklin and even Eminem,” Blackman said.
Once he discovered the pool of international talent, many of whom like Xiao Dong Wei, immigrated to Detroit from other countries, there was no stopping him. In 2010, he put on a show featuring a variety of ethnic groups and then went on to compose music for an album, using instruments from all over the world. “I brought things together that tickled my ears,” he said.
Now it is the best of the best musicians representing more than 16 countries that Blackman enlists for his monthly concert series.
These international stars have performed in their own tight-knit communities but until Blackman’s world concert series there has never been a public venue where these amazing musicians can be seen on a regular basis. China is the featured country this month, next it will be Argentina, followed by Cameroon (Africa) and then Spain. “I love it,” Fratangelo said. “It’s bringing familiarity to something unfamiliar.”
“My goal with this is to entertain people at such a high level that they go home and talk about it,” added Blackman.
The Garden Theater is at 3929 Woodward Avenue, Detroit. For tickets and more information about upcoming shows visit seanblackman.com/live