The Making of "Hot Tamale Louie" — An Obermann Conversation

Monday, April 10, 2017 - 4:00pm
Event Location: 
Iowa City Public Library, Room A
123 Linn Street
Iowa City, IA 52240

UI Music Professor and jazz musician John Rapson has created a new jazz-centered production based on a fantastical but true story that he read in The New Yorker magazine about an Afghani child who left his home near the Khyber Pass and ended up in Sheridan, Wyoming. Zarif Khan took over a business selling tamales, while also learning how to invest in the U.S. stock market. Living frugally, he spent his money on acts of kindness and generosity, which earned him celebrity in both his new home and his birth home. In 1925, he gained his U.S. citizenship, only to have it revoked by U.S. xenophobic laws, and regained 30 years later. Late in life, he fell in love through an arranged marriage, but was tragically murdered. Recently, his children founded a mosque in Gillette, Wyoming, in his memory that has drawn the ire of some eastern Wyoming residents and received national media attention.

Hot Tamale Louie or The Story of Zarif Khan told with Music is a genre-bending tale with lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk songs and melodies from the East, evocative tone poems, and raucous ragtime melded together by jazz. It includes a large cast of musicians, whose styles and expertise range from Africa to Ireland.

In this Conversation, Rapson will talk about the making of this outsized work that is impossible to categorize. He'll discuss the collaborative process with local folk singer-songwriter Dave Moore, and Daniel Gaglione, a recent immigrant who plays the North African mandole. Share their stories in the making of this politically significant piece prior to seeing the April 20th performance, which will be at 7:30 p.m. at Voxman School of Music. 

Co-sponsored by the Iowa City Public Library.