Valley musicians go to bat for victims of Maui wildfires


Staff Writer

Published: 09-04-2023 1:10 PM

FLORENCE — The world watched in horror last month as devastating wildfires wiped out a historic community on the island of Maui, killing at least 115 people in and around the town of Lahaina and destroying an estimated 2,200 structures.

According to numerous reports, it’s the nation’s deadliest natural disaster since wildfires killed hundreds of people in Minnesota in 1918.

Now a number of Valley musicians and some of their friends from outside the area are coming together to raise funds for Maui relief efforts.

Organizers of the Musicians for Maui Benefit Concert, which takes place Sunday, Sept. 10 at the Bombyx Center for Arts & Equity, say 100% of ticket sales will be donated to the victims of the August wildfires, nearly all of whom have lost their homes.

Three groups, playing music ranging from flamenco to jazz to blues to funk, will play at the Florence arts center, where the concert begins at 6:30 p.m.

Fiesta Rumbera, a five-piece ensemble that plays Rumba Flamenca, a fusion of Spanish flamenco and Cuban rhythms, has performed locally and further afield. The core group includes Tony Silva on Spanish guitar, Brian O’Connell on bass guitar, and Michel Moushabeck on percussion (cajons).

Moushabeck says the group will be joined by Goran Popovski, a “master Spanish guitarist” from Boston, and by Chris Devine on violin and flute.

Another group blending different influences is Masala Jazz, a Leverett-based group that includes Moushabeck on drums, SiriNamKhalsa on guitar, and Noah Altman on bass.

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According to program notes, though the ensemble’s foundation is in jazz and blues, their music also incorporates elements of funk, rock, country, and tango.

Moushabeck says they’ll be joined “by several other musician friends” during the course of the evening.

As well, John Sheldon, who’s been wowing Valley audiences with his fretwork on electric and acoustic guitar since the early 1990s, will be part of the show along with some other musical friends.

Sheldon cut his professional teeth as a teenager playing lead guitar for Van Morrison and went on to tour with Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. He’s also a prolific songwriter and has released 13 albums, both with his band Blue Streak and as a solo artist, while also composing music for theater.

Tickets for the Sept. 10 show are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Visit for more information.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at