Lamajamal's music combines Middle Eastern and Balkan traditions with luscious, dubbed-out production and a rock band's sensibilities. Capable of dreamy, pensive soundscapes or raucous, jovial, party music, Lamajamal can take the listener all over the world, or just to the dance floor.
Lamajamal was formed in Chicago in 2003 by Ronnie Malley, George Lawler and Joey Spilberg. Originally sticking to music from North Africa, the band soon expanded to include other musical traditions when Eve Monzingo and Gary Kalar joined the group in 2004. Lamajamal quickly became one of Chicago’s premier world music groups, playing at the Chicago World Music Festival 4 times in a row, including a stint as Turkish Roma clarinet wizard Selim Sesler’s band, and releasing an album of Kashmiri folk music underwritten by FUNKAR, a NGO promoting the preservation and appreciation of Kashmiri language and arts. Their latest LP, ‘Tsikago’ expands their sound further with more instruments, original compositions, and luscious studio production.
“…Lamajamal is a band without borders." - Tony Sarabia, Chicago Public Radio
"…when they're on, they're on, arriving at a fuzzy, garagey take on Roma music thanks to a knack for sexy, serpentine grooves and a mean, mean oud player." - Monica Kendrick, Chicago Reader
“Lamajamal--it must be said--isn't a novelty act. Nor are they taking traditional Gypsy music and simply updating it. They take folk music from all over the world and they put their own spin on it. The response for what they have performed and released has been very encouraging.” - Pioneer Press
"So, here's my thumbs-up to Lamajamal for creating a fun and accessible musical experience that offers the full range of expression from silly to sophisticated. Some of the tight harmonies and culturally-mixed lines and phrases stopped me cold as I found myself transported to who-knows-where. The skill and confidence it takes to be that relaxed playing complex material can only be achieved through much hard effort. What ensemble work!” - Roxane Assaf, Public Relations, Chicago Arabesque
Gary Kalar [email] - Cumbush, Guitar, Mandolin, Percussion
Gary is originally from Minneapolis and has lived in Chicago since 1998. He studied composition at the Minnesota Center for Arts Education and graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a degree in sound design. A multi-instrumentalist, he has performed throughout the US and Europe on guitar, mandolin, cümbüs (fretless Turkish banjo), drums and percussion, and specializes in experimental western and Ottoman/Turkish music, instruments, and theory. Gary currently provides private musical instruction throughout the Chicagoland area and also performs and writes for Mucca Pazza, an experimental circus punk marching band.
George Lawler www.jamoflage.com - Drums, Percussion, Vocals
George Lawler is an accomplished percussionist and instrument maker who has been involved in the Chicago music scene for 18 yrs. Specializing in Middle Eastern, Balkan, Turkish, and Greek percussion, George has become adept at translating these various traditional genres to the drum set. As an apprentice to master Tunisian percussionist, Najib Bahri, George learned the nuances of many folkloric drumming styles as well as the art of drum construction and repair. Other genres he has performed extensively include: Chinese surf-pop (Red Chamber), Afro-Cuban percussion (L'Orchestre Super Vitesse, Occidental Brothers, Roccambu jazz), Electronic percussion (Frequency Lab, Tranquility Bass), reggae (DaDa Do), and indy rock (Dan Wallace), along with his hobbies, ragtime piano and Spanish guitar. George has toured the U.S. with Belgian/Egyptian pop star Natacha Atlas, toured Eurppe with "A Hawk and a Hacksaw" and appeared on the Conan O'Brien Show with the 30 piece 'circus-punk' marching band, Mucca Pazza. He has performed percussion workshops at Chicago Public Schools and is also a music director for the Orpheus Hellenic Folklore Society. George is the owner of the Jamoflage Percussion Co. which makes custom frame drums and other unique instruments. He teaches private lessons on percussion and drum kit, and produces and records music and video at his home studio in Humbolt park.
Ronnie Malley [email] - Oud, Keyboard, Guitar, Melodica, Accordion, Percussion, Vocals
A Chicago native, Ronnie Malley is a multi-instrumentalist that has been performing for audiences since the age of thirteen. Ronnie began guitar lessons at an early age later moving on to piano, and Middle Eastern percussion. He is also self-taught on the oud (Mid-Eastern lute). As a member of the family band with his father and brother, both percussionists, Ronnie’s stage experience began by performing at weddings, concerts, festivals and local Middle Eastern clubs with reknowned artists such as Kazem Elsaher, Majdi Husseini, and Tony Hanna. Eventually touring throughout the US, the Middle East, and Europe, Ronnie expanded his ethno-musical palatte to study, perform and record with Sufi and folk musicians from Senegal, Sudan, North Africa, Turkey as well as with Afro-Peruvian folk artists, Rodolfo Munoz and Miguel Ballermos. His more recent credits include assistant music arranger and performer in a Goodman Theatre production of Mary Zimmerman’s “Mirror of the Invisible World“ and French FTS Production documentary, “One World Music”. Ronnie expresses a message of cultural awareness that “although we have many differences, music and art remain universal and help illuminate our commonalities.” Currently he teaches at the Old Town School of Folk Music, conducts Arabic music workshops for Chicago Public Schools and the University of Chicago’s Startalk camp, composes and records for various film projects, as well as performing and touring with music groups Lamajamal, Mucca Pazza and the U of C Middle Eastern Music Ensemble.
Eve Monzingo [email] - Clarinet, Sax, Flute, Dulcimer, Percussion, Vocals
A clarinet, saxophone, flute, and dulcimer player, Eve Monzingo is accomplished in traditional Greek, Turkish, Bulgarian, and Yiddish folk music. She studied classical composition at Roosevelt University in Chicago under Dr. Robert Lombardo. Her composition credits include performances of her work by the Midwest Chapter of American Women Composers and at the American Jewish song festival. She was awarded scholarships from the Ethnic Folk Arts Apprenticeship Grant and the Illinois Arts Council to study Greek clarinet music with Jim Stoynoff, as well as a partial grant to study Middle Eastern music with Simon Shaheen at the Arabic Music Retreat. Eve has toured Europe with the Naye Kapelye and the Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, which feature her compositions “Sweet Home Bulkovina” and “Anthology” on Oriente Records, Germany. Eve plays a prominent role in the Chicago and International world music scene providing musical instruction, composing, recording, and touring with various ensembles.
Joseph Spilberg [email] - Bass, Percussion, Vocals
Joey has been playing electric and acoustic bass since he was 12 years old. He studied Jazz Performance at New York University. Afterwards, Joey went on to study and perform traditional North African and Middle Eastern music with Tunisian master percussionist Najib Bahri. For three years he studied with Najib where he met George Lawler, Ronnie Malley, Eve Monzingo, and many other Chicago-based ‘world music’ musicians. Since then he has performed with a diverse assortment of groups in Chicago, touring nationally and internationally. Outside of playing in Lamajamal, Joey has played with Rocambu Jazz, a world music jazz ensemble led by Delmark recording artist Yves Francois, The Middle Eastern Music Ensemble of the University of Chicago, Jim Stoynoff, Hisar Ensemble, the Dolce Vita Wedding and Variety Band, Balkano, Mar Caribe, The Chicago Klezmer Ensemble, and Solar Anja. Joey also collaborates regularly with non-for-profit arts organizations in various ways including his work as Volunteer Coordinator for the Center for International Performance and Exhibition, participating in the Planning Committee for the 2007 Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival, and working at The Music Store at the Old Town School of Folk Music. He is currently the Events Coordinator for Intercultural Music Productions, a Program Assistant for the Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival, and he is studying the cello.