SOLD OUT: Mali Obomsawin Sextet with Miriam Elhajli
doors at 7:30pm
$20 day of show
$2 off for SPACE members
The New Hampshire-born, Portland-based, Wabanaki bassist, composer, and songwriter returns to SPACE with her critically-acclaimed sextet. Co-presented by Portland Conservatory’s Dimensions in Jazz.
The new album Sweet Tooth from Wabanaki bassist, composer, and songwriter Mali Obomsawin highlights centuries of clever adaptation and resistance that have fueled the art and culture of Wabanaki people. Written as a compositional suite, the album, released in October 2022 on Out of Your Head Records, blends Wabanaki stories and songs with compositions addressing contemporary Indigenous life, colonization, and continuity. It’s at once intimately personal, featuring field recordings of relatives at Odanak First Nation, but also conveys a larger story of the Wabanaki people. The compositions reveal threads that bind together blues, jazz, hymns, folk songs, and Native cultures, and foreground the breadth of Indigenous contributions to these genres.
“Telling Indigenous stories through the language of jazz is not a new phenomenon,” Obomsawin explains. “My people have had to innovate endlessly to get our stories heard – learning to express ourselves in French, English, Abenaki… but sometimes words fail us, and we must use sound. Sweet Tooth is a testament to this.” Sweet Tooth is a celebration of Indigenous innovation, and an ingeniously envisioned debut for this composer-bandleader.
Mali Obomsawin is an award winning bassist, songwriter and composer from Abenaki First Nation at Odanak. With an expansive background in American roots, rock, and jazz, Obomsawin carries several music traditions. Mali’s debut album Sweet Tooth, has received international acclaim since its release in October of 2022 (Out of Your Head), including rave reviews in The Guardian, JazzTimes, and NPR. A Smithsonian Folkways Recordings artist, she spent the years 2014-2021 touring internationally with beloved folk-rock band Lula Wiles. An in-demand bassist in the US folk and jazz circuits, Mali appears often as an accompanist with contemporaries Jake Blount and Lizzie No, and has performed at festivals like Newport and Philly Folk. She can also be found in galleries and creative music spaces with the likes of Peter Apfelbaum, Taylor Ho Bynum, and Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble.
Obomsawin received the 2022 International Folk Music Association’s “Rising Tide Award,” which honors new generation artists who embody the values and ideals of the folk community through their creative work, community role, and public voice. They also received the New England Foundation of the Arts’ “New Work New England” award in 2022. Mali is a member of The Julia Keefe Indigenous Big Band and Indigenous Performance Productions’ Welcome To Indian Country. As a composer-arranger, they scored the upcoming film “We Are The Warriors,” collaborated with Red Sky Performance and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and Palaver Strings. Beyond the stage Mali is a community organizer and advocate for Indigenous rights, environmental justice and landback. She works as a writer and educator with Sunlight Media Collective, a Wabanaki-driven media team, to document and promote stories at the intersection of environmental justice and Tribal sovereignty. Her journalism has been published recently in Smithsonian, National Performance Network, and the Boston Globe. In 2020, Mali co-founded Bomazeen Land Trust, the first ever Wabanaki land trust, where she currently serves as executive director.
Miriam Elhajli is a folk singer, composer-improviser, and musicologist whose work is influenced by the rich musical traditions of her Venezuelan, Moroccan and North American heritage.