“Pink Martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure … if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.”
In 1994, in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, Thomas Lauderdale was working in politics, thinking that one day he would run for mayor. Like other eager beaver politicians-in-training, he went to every political fundraiser under the sun … but was dismayed to find the music at these events underwhelming, lackluster, loud and un-neighborly. Drawing inspiration from music from all over the world – crossing genres of classical, jazz and old-fashioned pop – and hoping to appeal to conservatives and liberals alike, he founded the “little orchestra” Pink Martini in 1994 to provide more beautiful and inclusive musical soundtracks for political fundraisers for progressive causes such as civil rights, affordable housing, the environment, libraries, public broadcasting, education and parks. “Pink Martini draws inspiration from the romantic Hollywood musicals of the 1940s or ‘50s … with a more global perspective. We write a lot of songs … but we also champion songs like Ernesto Lecuona’s “Andalucia” or “Amado mio” from the Rita Hayworth film “Gilda” or “Kikuchiyo to mohshimasu (My name is Kikuchiyo)” made famous in the 1960s by the great Japanese group Hiroshi Wada & His Mahina Stars. In that sense we’re a bit like musical archeologists, digging through recordings and scores of years past and rediscovering beautiful songs.”
Lauderdale met China Forbes, Pink Martini’s “Diva Next Door” lead vocalist, at Harvard. He was studying history and literature while she was studying English literature and painting. Actually neither of them really studied, they socialized … and late at night, they would break into the lower common room in their college dormitory and sing arias by Puccini and Verdi – and the occasional campy Barbara Streisand cover –thus sealing their creative collaboration. Three years after graduating, Lauderdale called Forbes who was living in New York City, where she’d been writing songs and playing guitar in hew own folk-rock project, and asked her to join Pink Martini. They began to write songs together for the band. Their first song “Sympathique” – with the chorus “Je ne veux pas travailler” (“I don’t want to work”) – became an overnight sensation in France, and was even nominated for “Song of the Year” at France’s Victoires de la Musique Awards. “Both China Forbes and I come from multicultural families,” says Lauderdale. “All of us in Pink Martini have studied different languages as well as different styles of music from different parts of the world. So inevitably, because everyone has participated at some point in the writing or arranging of songs, our repertoire is wildly diverse. At one moment, you feel like you’re in the middle of a samba parade in Rio de Janeiro, and in the next moment, you’re in a French music hall of the 1930s or a palazzo in Napoli. It’s a bit like an urban musical travelogue. We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad … and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent – through our repertoire and our concerts – a broader, more inclusive America … the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world … comprised of people of every country, every language, every religion.”
Pink Martini has twelve musicians performs its multilingual repertoire on concert stages and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe, Asia, Greece, Turkey, the Middle East, Northern Africa, Australia and New Zealand and North America.
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