Mirror Butterfly album cvr_Innova Records 2019.JPG
MIRROR BUTTERFLY: migration liberation suite (a new jazz opera for Afro Yaqui Music Collective) by Ruth Margraff
Genre: adaptation, adventure + 15 more · Keyword: jazz opera immigration liberation black panther migration indigenous human rights climate refugees ecopolitical ecoconscious
This new opera is written by Ruth Margraff with composer Ben Barson, who inherited the personal sax of the late composer/activist Fred Ho. Ruth devised the libretto grass-roots style in Pittsburgh devised from interviews with climate refugees from Mexico, Syria, and West Africa. MIRROR BUTTERFLY is an epic multicultural jazz opera performed by the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, an indigenous-jazz band led by Gizelxanath Rodriguez and Ben Barson with Samuel Okoh-Boateng featuring interviews with former Black Panther Mama C exiled in Tanzania, Wanlove a kubolor from Ghana, and Azize an activist working with Syrian Rojava and Mexican Zapatistas.
MIRROR BUTTERFLY was created by an interdisciplinary, collaborative team inspired by the revolutionary Zapatista myth (of Chiapas, Mexico) relating to local ecology, sustainability and rebellion. The story is told through metaphors of a tree, a stone, and a river. The MLMS story focuses on portraits of three women, inspired by actual interviews conducted with living activist/artist women--Mama C (a former Black Panther now in Tanzania) symbolized by the Mulberry Tree, Azize Aslan (part of the Kurdish woman’s movement, a remarkable democratic, matriarchal and ecosocialist movement, fighting ISIS and Turkish repression) is symbolized by the Stoneflower. Finally, Yaqui women Reyna Lourdes Anguamea and Gizelxanath Rodriguez are both represented by the almost-extinct Kautesamai Butterfly of Sonora, Mexico. The aria portraits show women’s confrontation and engagement with the violent, repressive colonial occupation (symbolized by the Sword character), whose destruction of ecologies results in forced migration and climate crisis. Other characters/dancers provide depth to philosophical and environmental themes. The Snail symbolizes the Zapatista philosophy of slow, revolutionary spiral-like transformation, and the Mushrooms represent underground networks of fungal intelligence as well as the legacy of guerrilla fighters--inspired by the Underground Railroad, the Black Panthers, today’s Kurdish women fighting ISIS, and the long history of Mexican revolutionaries, including Zapatista women. The work is sung in multiple genres (opera/soul/hip hop) and multiple languages, including the Yaqui language of Yoeme, with translation into English provided by a narrator character. This multi-genre and multi-aesthetic approach is meant to communicate the diversity of migrant experiences and cultures, and fight stereotypical and destructive representations of migrants entering or living in the United States.
MIRROR BUTTERFLY premiered at the New Hazlett Theater (Pittsburgh) as a work-in-progress Oct 11-12, 2018 directed by Cynthia Croot, conducted by Federico Garcia-De Castro, to open up Season 6 of the CSA (community supported art) series. It was presented in October in dialogue with Indigenous People’s Day. The opera featured a 15-piece band multicultural jazz band, three choral singers, and 7 dancer-actors including one hip-hop/spoken word artist. It then went on to the Kennedy Center Millenium Stage November 23, 2018 (Washington DC); and has been developed by Nov 4, 2018 National Ensemble Theater conference plenary performance (Tucson); NPN showcase Dec 14-15, 2018 (Pittsburgh); at the 1st Mesopotamian Water Forum Apr 6-8, 2019 (Kurdistan, Iraq); and released on Innova Records at Red Rooster/Ginny's Supper Club (Harlem); on Aug 3, 2019. Excerpts have already been featured on the New Sounds playlist, on 91.3 WYEP Aug 27, 2019 with interview on the revolutionary responsibility of being an artist and partnership with the Yaqui radio station Námakasia Radio, which receives all CD sales and will be performed at The National Jazz Museum in Harlem on October 3, 2019 as part of the Jazz and Social Justice salon.