Keith Kenny Invited To Headline UXO Concert In Laos

Vientiane, Laos, has been named the proverbial “City of Sandalwood,” a descriptive identifier handed down from the deep communications of the Pali, the liturgical language of Theravada Buddhism. It is also the world’s most heavily bombed country, per capita, in our war-torn past.

More than half a million bombing missions were conducted over Laos, and over 2 million tons of mega-powered ordnance were dropped on the area between 1964 and 1973. Approximately 75-80 million unexploded bombs of all types remained in Laos after the Vietnam War.

New Jersey native and musician Keith Kenny became acutely aware of this fact after longtime fan and unexploded ordinance victim Phongsavath Souliyalat (Pong) reached out to Kenny and invited him to be the musical focal point of his benefit show, “We Are Kind.” Pong became familiar with Kenny and his unique style of songwriting and playing from discovering him through contacts after his accident. Pong lost both of his hands as well as his eyesight when a tennis ball-sized bomb exploded in his hands four years ago. Since that time, Pong has become the spokesperson for the COPE Center, which provides prosthetics, rehabilitation and support for other unfortunate victims of unexploded ordinances across the region.

“We Are Kind” will take place on November 11, 2013, at the Lao National Cultural Hall in Vientiane, and will feature several local musical acts and dancers before turning the headlining spot over to Kenny, who will close out the night with some guaranteed acoustic shredding.

When Pong approached Keith about performing, Kenny enthusiastically accepted the offer. “I’m really excited and honored to perform for the victims of UXO and hope that my music can help make a difference. I’m looking forward to meeting Pong in person, talking about aspirations, hopes and solutions, as well as experiencing the culture in Laos.”

Keith is actually in the middle of a national tour called the Big Red Suitcase Tour and has been performing at over 30 cities across the U.S. When he was invited to play for “We Are Kind,” he opened a quick window and made arrangements for this 8,000-mile journey, briefly putting his tour here on hold. Fortunately for Kenny, American company Aqua Survey, Inc. has agreed to foot the bill and send him posthaste to perform and contribute to this positive and healing cause. Aqua Survey is heavily involved in locating and remediating UXO (unexploded ordinances) throughout Laos.

When doing some research for this article, I couldn’t believe how many people are affected by left over weaponry in that part of the world. During wartime, over 50,000 people were killed directly from unexploded ordinance. Since the close of the Vietnam War in 1974, over 20,000 people have continued to be killed from that same disturbing field of hidden dangers.

Kenny has grown from a local club player to an internationally known artist. His complex and passionate music has reached across the globe, attracting the attention of people in need and assisting in their struggle to cope with the ramifications of war and the aftereffect it leaves behind. His involvement with “We Are Kind” and his friendship with Pong shows that the world can unite to solve problems, even though the past has told us we were too different to do so.

Keith Kenny has also told me that as soon as he returns from his Asian journey, he will resume his Big Red Suitcase Tour, performing at theaters, clubs and specialty venues from California to New Jersey.

To learn more about “We Are Kind,” check out the events promotional material over at http://youtu.be/Xrx_Huj0HFs and please visit Keith over at keithkenny.com. It’s an exciting new action from one of New Jerseys brave new movers and shakers.

 

Sandy Mack – New Jersey’s Ultimate Helpin’ Harpist

Sandy Mack is a musician who many of us know on a personal basis. You can catch him around town, adding texture to a myriad of local performers all intent on renovating their sound and adding important value to their presentation. But what you may not know about this native New Jersey harpist is that his past as a musician is long and varied.

Since the carefree days of fourth grade, Mack has been playing for audiences and with musicians ranging from local to famous. His love of the harp began as a child when he purchased his instrument of choice on a class trip to New York City.

As he grew, he was thrown straight into the now famous Student Prince scene, sitting in with the almighty Boss and jamming with future icons up to five nights a week.

Inspirationally speaking, Mack sites legends like Little Walter and Muddy Waters, but others have gone beyond those powerful beacons, comparing him to contemporary harp blowing greats like Mark Hummel, Rick Estrin, Dennis Gruenling, Steve Guyger and Bill Lupkin. His love and dedication to jump blues comes across on his early association with fellow shore legend Sonny Kenn. His time with Sonny led Mack to New York City’s own Trip Henderson, a harp player who schooled Mack on tone and technique over the years.

The 1980s introduced Mack to the Hoboken music scene and served as his introduction to becoming a session player in various recording studios in the area. Mack also picked up the art of promotions, learning the booking trade (probably out of necessity) and applying that skill to rooms such as Asbury Park club O’Shea’s (later to become The Saint) as well as performing and hosting open jams both there and over at Jason’s in Belmar. Jason’s was home to the world’s most famous touring bluesmen, as well as a great local lineup of ninja-skilled players. Sandy is also well known for his yearly charity event, Harpin’ Help, a benefit that assists the Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation and their worthwhile causes.

Sandy Mack has also recorded with numerous artists and has released at least two of his own discs, including the stellar 2009 offering, Still Going Strong (featuring guitar great Kid Ramos) on Blues Leaf Records. As of this writing, Mack divides his time with the Sandy Mack Band, Slim Chance & The Gamblers, Dead On Live, and the god-like Sonny Kenn. Sandy has also been acknowledged through his Jersey Shore Jazz and Blues Foundation with the “Lifetime Achievement Award,” as well as his 2010 induction into the Blues Hall of Fame and his 2012 win at the Asbury Music Awards.

Mack is a New Jersey original. Always ready to lend a hand when it comes to charity, Sandy is a monster talent that is as down to earth as you could ever hope to be, and is an artist I would suggest viewing live when you get the chance. And believe me: Sandy supplies as many chances as he can for new inductees, as well as longtime fans to experience his intricate talents right here in the Garden State. Actually, I know for a fact that Sandy Mack and his bluesy cohorts are at the Wonder Bar on Ocean Avenue in Asbury Park most Sunday afternoons.

For more information on Sandy Mack, his music and the traditional and historic blues school that he endorses, head over to reverbnation.com/sandymack.

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