Taina Asili y La Banda Rebelde is back in the Capital Region, and will be playing the Freedom Festival with the hip-hop duo Katani at the Sanctuary for Independent Media on Saturday, June 3, from 3 to 6 PM. Freedom Festival will be free and open to all, with free food and kids’ activities, as well as opportunities to get involved with the local organizations that will be tabling during the event. Freedom Festival is the launch of the Sanctuary’s “Summer Series”, a series of free performances held outside, utilizing the Sanctuary’s outdoor “Freedom Stage”.
“It should be a really fun time,” Asili says over the phone. “It’s going to be an opportunity to dance in the grass and enjoy food, enjoy one another, and really connect to each other, as a community working towards greater social justice.”
The Festival isn’t the first time Asili has performed at the Sanctuary, nor will it be the last. Asili’s first album release party for War Cry was held at the Sanctuary, in 2010 — her roots with the organization run deep. “The Sanctuary has always been an important home for us in the Capital Region because they create a space for social justice music,” says Asili. The social justice function of the Sanctuary for Independent Media is one of the most important aspects about the institution, according to Asili. “I’ve toured the country many times. I’ve been to every major city and many small cities, and I haven’t seen too many spaces like the Sanctuary, that are holding space for both the arts and social justice. It’s unique and special.”
Asili says that the Sanctuary and a number of other area institutions are reflective of our local values. “When we have spaces like the Sanctuary, or the Social Justice Center, or In Our Own Voices — you don’t find these kinds of spaces just anywhere. People worked really hard to carve out and create for us future generations, and I am honored to live in an area where these types of spaces exist, and I want to see more support happen for them.”
One of Asili’s favorite things about the Sanctuary is its diversity of programming; specifically, the number of international artists who come to perform there. “They’re bringing top-notch people from all over the world,” says Asili. Rahim AlHaj, a renowned oud player from Iraq, is due to perform at the Sanctuary on Wednesday, May 24. “Not only are they bringing these people in, they’re documenting these powerful, historic performances, and we’re able to go onto the website or youtube and witness these performances.”
It isn’t just music, at the Sanctuary, of course. Most recently, the Sanctuary hosted renegade journalist Matt Taibbi, and there have been some legendary spoken word performances by the likes of Amiri Baraka.
What are the best ways the public can support The Sanctuary in its mission to bring socially conscious art to the world?
“You can go to mediasanctuary.org and donate,” says Asili, laughing. “Also, coming to Sanctuary events helps. The more that come, the merrier. The events this summer are mostly free, but some will charge through a sliding scale, and that’s a great way to support the space. It’s also important to come, witness, and support through your presence.
What has Asili been up to since The Alt caught up with her in January?
“One of the most exciting things I’ve done lately is that I’ve gone down to Greenville, South Carolina, and did a Ted X performance, which will be released soon. It was surreal and amazing to be part of that kind of talk/performance series, which I’ve been an admirer of for a while,” says Asili. “It was amazing to stand on the stage and have the Ted X sign on the other side of me. I can’t wait for that video to come out.
Other than that talk, Asili has wrapped up her spring tour, and is enjoying some downtime before her summer tour begins. She is due to play the Grassroots Festival, taking place outside Ithaca, NY, from July 20 to 23.
She has a few upcoming Capital Region dates; a performance at the Say It Out Loud Black & Latino Pride Festival, sponsored by In Our Own Voices, on Saturday, June 10, and a Rockin’ on the River performance in Troy, on Wednesday, June 6.