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A "Beautiful Mess" at the South Milwaukee PAC

March 29, 2012

On Friday, April 13, the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (SMPAC) will welcome the band that defies all ideas of genre, Rupa & the April Fishes. With influences of French chanson, Argentinean tango, Gypsy swing, American folk, Latin cumbias and even Indian ragaso, their music along with their raucous and inviting performances have made them internationally renowned.

Rupa & the April Fishes will perform Friday, April 13, at 7:30 pm. Tickets are $15-$20 and may be purchased through the Box Office at 414-766-5049 or online at

Coming from the land of earthquakes, social movements, social networking, peace-lovers and global corporate conglomerates, Rupa & the April Fishes embody the pluralistic and paradoxical sounds of the San Francisco Bay Area. The band came together in 2006, in the Mission District, a place of intersection where original dwellers, the Yelamu Indians, lived for 2000 years before the arrival of Spanish missionaries, followed by old San Francisco Irish families mashed up with relatively newer Latino, African American, Asian and Pacific Islander communities and the most recent group – the children of the middle and upper middle class, mostly white hipsters.

The band met through the closely tied arts community and started playing the bars in the barrio, attempting to forge a sound that would bring a strangely segregated city with a radical past into a joint space of engagement. Inspired by street music and the ethos of public art around the world, physician and bandleader Rupa started composing music in multiple languages in order to investigate the idea that what runs beneath the apparent differences is something deeper – our intrinsic need for human connection and shared celebratory experience. In a country where space for public noncommercial gathering is incredibly limited and shrinking, she sought out like-minded mischievous musicians to create opportunities for artistic dialogue. She found in drummer Aaron Kierbel a longtime creative counterpart who provides the essential heartbeat to the sonic adventures and together with the rest of the band, they are creating music that is bridging divides and pointing to the value of live and living music – in its force and delicacy.

The band's first performance was at the autonomous art space in SF, the Red Poppy Art House, and since that incendiary show, Rupa & the April Fishes have been lighting up stages large and small – from the Montreal Jazz Festival to the Subterranean Art House, from the Power to the Peaceful Festival with Michael Franti to El Lugar Del Nopal in Tijuana, from Sziget Festival in Budapest to the Mission Arts and Performance Project in El Garaje de la Folsom. The band has toured extensively in the US, Canada, along the US-Mexico border and throughout Europe and has collaborated with visual artists, poets, circus artists, social shakers and other musicians. They have had the honor to share stages with Nonstop Bhangra, Manu Chao, Gattamolesta, Los De Abajo, The Coup, Rebelution, Rodrigo y Gabriela, LoCura, Brass Liberation Orchestra, Brass Menazeri and many other inspiring rabble rousers.

Their music is strictly organic, nuclear-free, post-nation, many-headed and decidedly unclean. Currently touring is Safa Shokrai (upright bass), Misha Khalikulov (cello), Mario Silva (trumpet), Aaron Kierbel (drums), and Rupa (songstress, voice, guitar).

The South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center (SMPAC) provides the greater community with a creative, innovative and diverse exploration of the performing arts. Through the many opportunities offered, the SMPAC is bringing art to life on stage and to the lives of the people in the South Shore and surrounding communities. Located on the South Milwaukee 6-12 campus, the SMPAC serves as a creative outlet for the greater community, as well as the students of South Milwaukee.

Along with the nine-show Performing Arts Series, the SMPAC opens its doors to other presenters to bring such acts as Cantare Chorale, Tommy Emmanuel, John Hiatt, Ian Hunter, Joe Lovano and Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. They also provide a home to the School District of South Milwaukee events as well as Grant Park Players, the local community theatre.

The South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center is located inside the South Milwaukee High School at 901 15th Avenue, South Milwaukee, WI between College and Rawson Avenues. It is easily accessible from I-94 and 794. Free parking is located in the northwest parking lot. Patrons should enter door #9. For tickets or directions, call 414-766-5049. For more information about the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, visit their website at

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