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Cooking up a new world in the Music Action Lab

The Music Action Lab 2.0 premieres new music Saturday at Ashkenaz. Featuring (l to r) Sevana Tchakerian, Ernesto “Matute” Lopez, Kauzeni Lyamba, James Brandon Lewis, Erika Oba, Avery Waite, Rona Nishliu, and Chris Bastian (Kasiva Mutua not pictured). Photo: Omeed Manocheri

Television producers take note, a situation ripe for a reality series is unfolding right now in Rockridge, where an international cast of nine young musicians is living together and creating new music. Rather than competing in pursuit of evanescent celebrity, they’re cooperating in a quest to elevate their communities and create new forms of expression.

Judging from a recent rehearsal at Ashkenaz, where the Music Action Lab 2.0 ensemble presents a set of new creations Saturday night, the collective is in the midst of forging a gorgeous blend of sounds flowing from their disparate musical backgrounds. Every composition is the result of varying degrees of collaboration, says Berkeley High graduate Erika Oba, a jazz flutist/pianist who’s living at home in South Berkeley rather than the Airbnb house with her ensemble-mates.

“It’s a smoother process than I might have expected,” she says. “We spent our first few days together doing duos, what we call musical speed dating. We got paired off for 15 minutes each and we’d come up with something to present to the group. If it was an idea that everyone was feeling, we’d see if we could develop it. A lot of our songs actually came from those musical speed dates.”

At the Ashkenaz rehearsal I attended last week, Ernesto “Matute” López, a drummer from Nicaragua, was leading the ensemble on an incantatory song in Spanish about necessity of clean water. He lived in the Bay Area a few years ago and performed widely with groups like Afrolicious, Ginger Ninjas, and LoCura,

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