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Arturo O’Farrill & Borderless Friends: The Shapeshifter Sessions



Arturo O'Farrill Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra

Harlem, NY — Wednesday, May 26, 2021 — Multi GRAMMY® Award-winning pianist/composer Arturo O’Farrill and nonprofit the Afro Latin Jazz Alliance (ALJA) present a riveting video performance on Sunday, May 30, 2021 (8:30pm EST on Virtual Birdland) and Friday, June 4, 2021 (7pm EST on La Plaza) featuring repertoire from O’Farrill’s famed recording catalogue. Alongside O’Farrill and his acclaimed 18-piece Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra, special guest artists Mandy Gonzalez, The Villalobos Brothers, Julia del Palacio, and Victor Murillo perform with the Mexico-based “The Conga Patria Son Jarocho Collective” featuring son jarocho artists Patricio Hidalgo, Ramón Gutiérrez Hernández, Tacho Utrera, Wendy Cao Romero, Fernando Guadarrama, and Jorge Francisco Castillo (Founder, Fandango Fronterizo Festival). Arturo O’Farrill & Borderless Friends: The Shapeshifter Sessions seamlessly integrates awe-inspiring performances recorded onsite in Brooklyn; Valencia, Spain; and Vera Cruz and Tijuana, Mexico. Arturo O’Farrill & Borderless Friends: The Shapeshifter Sessions will be broadcasted for free on the ALJA Digital Village, which can be accessed via

In May of 2018, O’Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra gathered with many of the same guests in a groundbreaking performance and live recording at the Fandango Fronterizo, an annual festival that takes place on both sides of the border wall between Tijuana and San Diego. Arturo O’Farrill & Borderless Friends: The Shapeshifter Sessions draws from many of the songs performed at the border with an all-star cast of son jarocho masters. O’Farrill and the Conga Patria Son Jarocho Collective have performed together for several years on various projects and productions that now culminates with their latest collaboration, Arturo O’Farrill & Borderless Friends: The Shapeshifter Sessions.

During a wintery week in November 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, Arturo and the ALJO gathered together again, this time in New York City to create an exclusive concert performance film with many of the original guest artists. This time though, they connected remotely. Thousands of miles of distance between many of the artists appearing on film for Arturo O’Farrill & Borderless Friends: The Shapeshifter Sessions couldn’t shake the sheer musical expressions of beauty while they performed the 300-hundred-year-old folk music of son jarocho that combines indigenous, Spanish, and African traditions. The core of live material recorded took place at ShapeShifter Lab in November 2020 while the artists and crew maintained strict public health and social distancing guidelines (including open doors in 40-degree weather).

Arturo O’Farrill states, “How could we not respond to the pandemic except in the manner in which Jorge Francisco Castillo responded to the foolishness of border politics. He used the very elements of fencing, chicken wire, attack dogs and border police to celebrate community and unity. We had to rise to the call and use face masks, temperature checks and isolation to affirm humanity and life. It is what Black Lives Matter protesters also did, they took the murder of black men and women and bent the very elements of hatred to unite globally in solidarity across racial, ethnic, national, and gender lines. This is what humans of conscience do. They deny the usurpers, the circumstances, the very elements of suffering and walk boldly into the future we wish to live in.”

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