Wyoming Arts Council

Hot Tamale Louie Tour

A series of performances of “Hot Tamale Louie: The Story of Zarif Khan, a tale told through Jazz,” will be presented throughout Wyoming April 10-13.

A historical photo of Zarif Khan.

Developed by Professor John Rapson of the University of Iowa School of Music’s Jazz Studies Program, “Hot Tamale Louie” is a powerful multimedia performance piece about an early 20th-century immigrant who lived in Sheridan, Wyo.

The Wyoming Arts Council, with support from WESTAF and the Wyoming Humanities Council, is pleased to present a series of free performances. Performances are scheduled April 10, Gillette, Cam-Plex, 7:30 p.m.; April 11, Powell, Powell High School Auditorium, 7 p.m., sponsored by the Park County Arts Council; April 12, Rock Springs, Broadway Theater, 7 p.m., sponsored by the city of Rock Springs, the Broadway Theater, and the Sweetwater Board of Cooperative Educational Services ; April 13, Laramie, Educational Auditorium, University of Wyoming, 6:30 p.m., in partnership with the Shepard Symposium on Social Justice.

The performance is based on a June 2016 “New Yorker” article that caught Rapson’s eye. Zarif Khan emigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan in 1907, eventually settling in Sheridan, where he took over a tamale business, as well as the previous owner’s nickname, “Hot Tamale Louie.”

As Khan built and lost fortunes, he lived frugally and often spent his money on acts of kindness and generosity. He gained citizenship in 1925, had it revoked, and regained it 30 years later.

Khan married late in life, had six children, and became a legend both in Wyoming and back home in the borderland between Afghanistan and Pakistan before meeting a tragic end. His children and grandchildren recently helped found a mosque in Gillette.

Rapson recognized the story’s dramatic possibilities, the timeliness of its themes, and the opportunities it presented to work with local musicians whose talents mirrored Khan’s global wanderings.

Rapson describes the show as a “genre-bending tale with lilting Western ballads, gentle Mexican waltzes, folk songs and melodies from the East, evocative tone poems and raucous ragtime melded together with jazz.”

Rapson teamed up with Danyel Gaglione, an immigrant now living in Iowa City, to collaboratively compose and arrange the material for eight musicians. Rapson compiled more than 300 historic photos from the Middle East, the American West, and elsewhere to illustrate Khan’s story, which is told in words, music, and visual projections.

In addition to Rapson, composer and piano; and Gaglione, composer, voice and mandole; other musicians are Dave Moore, voice, slide guitar, accordion, harmonica; Ryan Smith, saxophone, flute and clarinet; Tara McGovern, violin; Dan Padley, electric guitar; Blake Shaw, double bass; and Justin LeDuc, drums and percussion.

For more information or individuals needing assistance to attend any of these events please contact the Wyoming Arts Council at 307-777-7473.



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