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Chicago Folklore Ensemble celebrates the contributions of immigrant musicians in Chicago and creates works of art that interweave music with stories and poetry.


Praner Alap (2023) – an album of songs by beloved Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore from his poetry collection Gitanjali. Chicago Folklore ensemble’s sensitive and innovative arrangements combine strings, accordion, and a variety of South Asian instruments, with vocals in Bengali by singers who immigrated to Chicago from Kolkata, India. The booklet contains new translations of the Bengali lyrics and original artwork inspired by each song, and includes a link to the digital album.

The World in Chicago (2016) – an album of music and a book of oral histories celebrating five musicians who immigrated to Chicago from Argentina, Thailand, Jordan, Ghana, and Serbia. The album presents a selection of songs taught by the five master musicians, arranged for string quartet, with many tracks featuring the master musicians as soloists on oud, keyboard, khaen, violin, and vocals. The book includes moving oral histories shared by the master musicians, along with beautiful illustrations, giving context to the music and taking readers on a journey through the neighborhoods of Chicago and around the world.

Major Performance Works

Our Gitanjali

Our Gitanjali: Song Offerings of Rabindranath Tagore (premiered 2018) brought audiences on a spiritual journey through Bengali music and poetry and reflected on the continuing impact of a great Bengali songwriter on the lives of ordinary people. Vocalists from Kolkata, India were accompanied by sweeping strings and accordion harmonies.

Where Rivers Meet

Where Rivers Meet (premiered 2017) was a show of Arabic music and storytelling that took listeners down the rivers of the Middle East. String ensemble and storyteller accompanied master musicians from Iraq, Egypt, and Palestine who share melodies and memories passed down in song and story.

Follow the Butterfly

Follow the Butterfly (premiered 2016) was a fun and interactive show for kids and families. String ensemble and storyteller presented international folktales with themes of respecting nature and caring for the earth. Each tale was accompanied by traditional music from its respective region – Nigeria, Thailand, the United States, India, and the Amazon Rainforest.

The World in Chicago

The World in Chicago (premiered 2015) was a show that celebrated immigrant musicians in Chicago. String quartet and storyteller presented traditional music and moving personal stories of master musicians from Jordan, Ghana, Argentina, Thailand, and Serbia.

Chicago Folklore Ensemble’s past performances include:

  • Old Town School of Folk Music
  • Chicago Cultural Center
  • TEDx Chicago
  • International House at University of Chicago
  • City Winery
  • Alhambra Palace
  • The Musical Offering
  • Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival
  • Night Out in the Parks
  • Manchester University, Indiana
  • WBEZ’s Worldview
  • Numerous Chicagoland schools, churches, and public libraries