A fond farewell to Baladino

By Stephen Manuszak

Even before they arrived, we started learning about Baladino’s music and the country of Israel with the Arts Midwest World Fest study guides. We also interviewed Yonnie Dror to find out what he was looking forward to on his U.S. tour and how we started playing music.


Baladino’s tour kicked off in fall 2013 with performances at world music festivals that included a visit from the Consul General of Israel to the Midwest in Chicago, Illinois, and dancing revelers in Madison, Wisconsin.

The ensemble’s Arts Midwest World Fest tour began in earnest in DeKalb, Illinois, where they hosted workshops at local middle and high schools as well as Northern Illinois University. In Hanover, Indiana, Baladino member Tomer Moked got audiences to count along with a 7/8 time signature, and their events in Medina, Ohio, received special attention from the town’s mayor. In fact, Baladino’s week in Medina received such an incredible outpouring of support that we had to post a few snippets! The group closed their first Arts Midwest World Fest tour with a spirited week in Midland, Michigan, where elementary school students danced in their seats and thronged the group with questions about their music and culture.

After taking a break for a few months, the ensemble returned to the Midwest in time for some incredibly harsh winter weather. Arriving first in Minneapolis, Arts Midwest staff was thrilled to welcome them back and catch their public performance at the legendary Dakota Jazz Club.

Always cheerful and high spirited, Baladino braved snowstorms and subzero temperatures in Rice Lake, Wisconsin where they delighted locals and tried out cross country skiing. They spent a week on the Lake Traverse Dakota Indian Reservation in Sisseton, South Dakota, where they collaborated with Native American drummers and flute players. Their next stop in Grand Forks, North Dakota included a special visit from old friends and a phenomenal performance at Empire Arts Center. The band was in their element in Bemidji, Minnesota, where the arts are truly valued as an essential part of the community. After getting to know the Midwest so well over the course of the fall and spring, the band was surprised to find a little taste of Europe in the coffee shop culture of Orange City, Iowa.

It has been a pleasure to follow Baladino’s journey with Arts Midwest World Fest. They kept us smiling through it all: the big stages, the small stages, auditoriums at schools of all kinds, retirement homes, community centers, and the warm homes opened to them by their new friends throughout the Midwest. Thanks so much to Baladino for sharing their music, culture, and their incredible joy with us!


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