“La reina del flow:” Sueños de Medellín

Yo llegué un poco tarde a esta fiesta. Pero como decimos en inglés, “mejor tarde que nunca.” Better late than never. La reina del flow estrenó el año pasado en Colombia en el canal Caracol Televisión. Yo vi la serie de 82 capítulos en Netflix, donde se puede disfrutarla en su original español. También hay subtítulos en varios idiomas. La producción colombiana ha sido tan intensa y exitosa que recientemente hicieron y pasaron la versión mexicana, la cual no he visto, este verano en Univisión.


Esta serie, La reina del flow, (The Queen of Flow), era extremamente popular en Colombia.  Mezcla la vida dura de una comuna (barrio bajo) con los sueños de unos músicos jóvenes. El autor, Andrés Salgado, combina la música urbana colombiana, sobre todo el género reggaetón, con actuación experta y un guión emocionante y conmovador.

Crear y tocar música urbana es el sueño de los personajes principales, Yeimy Montoya (Carolina Ramírez/María José Vargas), Juancho (Andrés Sandoval)  y Charly Flow (Carlos Torres). Otros personajes menores, Erik, Chris Vega, Irma y Axl, también quieren hacerse famosos cantando reggaetón. Poder componer e improvisar letras son muy importantes en este contexto, y vemos el desarrollo de la talentosa Yeimy, desde su adolescencia en la comuna hasta su labor como agente y compositora profesional en los estudios Excelsior y Surround Vibes. Pero su camino no es fácil. Yeimy tiene una vida muy difícil marcada por la pobreza y la muerte y acaba en la cárcel en los Estados Unidos. Esta historia extraña la lleva de vuelta a Medellín como espía de la DEA para cazar a un narcotraficante violento, alias Manín.

Antes de ver La reina del flow, había mirado otras series colombianas, como Betty la fea, Sin tetas no hay paraíso, La esclava blanca  Sempre bruja, todos programas muy bien realizados. Sin embargo, La reina del flow resultó aun más entretenido por su uso de música actual (compuesta por la serie) y el habla popular llena de “colombianismos.” Predominan el uso de vos, y palabras como parcero/a, qu’ubo, te caigo, mona, etc. Como Sin tetas no hay paraíso, el lenguaje y la temática son fuertes y no apropriados para niños pequeños. Además de destacar la lucha de Yeimy de vengarse y rehacer su vida, toca los temas serios de la violencia doméstica, el tráfico de drogas, el abuso de drogas y bebidas alcoholicas, la traición y la pobreza.

Muy recomendado para mayores de 14 años. ¡Vean la serie en NETFLIX!

Bakosó: Afrobeats de Cuba…A New Genre of Street Music!!

Today, May 31, 2019, I had the enormous pleasure to view the new documentary Bakosó: Afrobeats de Cuba, by independent filmmaker, Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi. This documentary features DJ Jigüe (Isnay Rodriguez)  a Cuban musician who Eli Jacobs-Fantauzzi (from Puerto Rico) met over 20 years ago.  Eli’s brother, Kahlil (based in New York City) is a co-producer along with Dj Jigüe. The Philadelphia Latino Film Festival presented the hour long documentary at the University of Arts, and afterwards there was a talk-back with Eli and DJ Jigüe. Kahlil, also present, offered support from the audience.

The film is making the rounds at different international festivals and has already premiered in California in the United States.

Bakosó follows the path of DJ Jigüe from Havana to Santiago de Cuba to the Afro-Latino Festival in NYC. Along the way he stops at Palma Soriano in Santiago, where he was born, to visit his grandmother. His grandmother is a santera, who practices the yoruba (lucumi) based religion, more popularly known outside of Cuba as santería. Although DJ Jigüe’s mother worked as a teacher in Angola, it is his grandmother, Cuca, who affirms that their African heritage, traditions and religion are of utmost importance in their lives.  These traditions and links have been passed down for generations in his family.

Throughout the fast paced documentary, we are introduced to these different neighborhoods in Cuba and the street music culture to trace the origins of Bakosó. DJ Jigüe meets up with various musicians doing this kind of music, who I, and I believe most people outside of Cuba, are not familiar with, such as: El Inka, Maikel el Padrino, Kiki Pro, and the singer Alva. The children’s dance group, “Sangre Nueva” is also featured.

The fusion of music, storytelling, performance and image is seamless and powerful in Bakosó, and make this documentary a joyous delight to experience. The crowds and unnamed people in the streets of Santiago, dance  expertly, yet naturally with abandon, and you can see how much they enjoy it. Their enthusiasm jumps out of the screen. But this is not just another movie about popular music or about Cuba. It delivers a glimpse into the heart and soul of people who were born to make music and dance in the steps of their ancestors. The connection with Africa is the focus of Bakosó, and the  dance of Eleggua, the orisha of roads/paths, begins and ends the film. Eleggua must open every santería ritual and he is also a messenger of Olofi, one of three manifestations of the Supreme god in the Yoruba religion.

While watching the documentary, I was reminded of rumba dances and chants to the orishas that I heard decades ago in Havana, and how music and dance have been cultivated in Cuba by way of the Afro-Cuban religions and by the government in the schools and conservatories. African rhythms and dances have existed in Cuba since Africans were brought to Cuba and enslaved in colonial times. Bakosó also mentions the 35,000 Cuban soldiers who fought in Angola, and the many Africans studying medicine in Cuba, as more contemporary connections to the mother continent. Bakosó is a mix of these many influences and rhythms. Some of the rhythms mentioned are: Kuduro, afrobeats, conga, rumba,  conguita and makuta.

The recital hall on the 17th floor of the University of the Arts building, where the film was screened, was nearly full to capacity. Many excited and happy audience members also stayed for the question and answer session afterwards with Eli and DJ Jigüe. At least 7 or 8 questions were answered in English and Spanish, and it could have gone on for another hour at least! To raise money, tee shirts and hats were sold at a table in the lobby. In answer to a question, DJ Jigüe said that each time he left the island, one of his most important goals was to show the world what Cuban artists were doing in Cuba, since Cuba has been in isolation due to politics for some 50 years. He did that and more with Bakosó. Overall, it was a rare opportunity to meet the director and producers of this documentary, to discover what new music is being developed in Cuba, and feel the alegría (joy) and spirit of the musicians and dancers of Santiago de Cuba.  I highly recommend this documentary–if it comes to your city, don’t hesitate, just GO see it!

For more information about this new Cuban genre and the producers, check out: https://jigue.bandcamp.com/track/bakoso


Eli’s films



Electroacoustic Music in Philadelphia: Live/Wire Ensemble & Opera Company

Live/Wire Ensemble and Opera Company, performing at Temple University, presented an innovative festival of electroacoustic premieres to a packed audience on July 29, 2018. The Festival, which opened on July 26, btought to Pressler Hall at Temple University, a program including,  Radiance  (Jon Paul Maysee), The Sun Gate (Carlos Johns-Dávila) and Pacamambo (Zack Settel). Each of these three works utilized technology in a distinct way. Besides showcasing computer orchestration, amplification and visual projections, these pieces also complemented each other in their inspiration and narratives. (Check Deslumbrar for interviews with the composers last week)

Radiance, which featured bassoonist Dominic Panunto, is based on Christian scripture passages: (Genesis 1:2), (1 Kings 17), (Luke 9:28-36), (Revelation 21:19) and (Exodus 34:35). Lighting effects were generated by the bassoon which were filtered through a computer program. Most of this composition consisted of long sustained notes played by the bassoonist, with corresponding flashes of colored lights in discs and a large space on the ceiling above the musician. For both Radiance and The Sun Gate, performed in the orchestra practice room, the audience was invited to sit on three sides, either on chairs or on the floor. In Radiance, the sole instrumentalist and the visual projection were the center of attention.

In contrast, the audience seemed to become part of the performance of The Sun Gate. There was a lot going on and so much to watch in this piece. The mirrors, projections, and 360 degree camera, bounced images on the walls AND on the people sitting on the floor or in chairs, who surrounded the “stage” where the dancers and musicians performed. Two flexible and engaging dancers, Morgaine A. De Leonardis and Elisa Hernandez, starred as the Incan gods Viracocha and Inti. In addition to the movements they did on the floor, I also found myself watching their shadows on the wall, which intersected with the geometric patterns that were projected. This created another depiction or layer of the story, which had been carefully researched and based on Incan mythology. I interviewed Carlos beforehand, so I was excited to hear and see him play the Quenacho flute that he had purchased in Perú. The flute provided a sense of authenticity to the piece, and I would have liked to have heard more of it. The melody played on the piano near the end recalled Andean tonality and reminded me somewhat of indigenous music I’d heard played on panflutes in the past. This mix of the European and indigenous is key to Carlos’ approach and inspiration. The world created in sound and image (human and geometric) was definitely creative and otherworldly and something I would like to experience again now that I know what to expect. I felt teased by the actual live music included in The Sun Gate and wanted to hear more. The colorful moving geometric patterns, the live dancing and the careful positioning of real roses on the floor were entrancing.  Vishaal Ravikumar (Lighting/Projections Designer) and Sarah Celona (Set Designer) are to be commended for their work on this multifaceted production.  Here is a clip from its New York premiere:

Pacamambo rounded out the trio with another spiritual narrative, this one about death and the afterlife. This comtemporary opera focuses on a young girl Julie (Carly Baron) and how she handles the death of her beloved Grandma “Marie-Marie” (Gillian Booth). Other parts were sung by Max Avery Vitagliano (The Psychiatrist), Andrew Shaw (Le Chien) and Julia Bokunewicz, (La Lune). Isaac Dae Young was the Music Director/Conductor, Carolyn McDemus (Assistant Music Director), and Jon Paul Mayse handled the electronics. Pacamambo utilized computer technology in a more subtle way than the other pieces. It consisted of additional instrumental parts and harmonies. These were programmed by the composer and passed on to the Live/Wire Ensemble and Opera Company to use in their performance. Since I also sing opera, I try to avoid reviewing operas and singers (conflict of interest) but I must say that the conductor and cast were astounding in their commitment to render this score and their performances were exquisite. Pacamambo was sung in French and they never missed a beat. It was obvious to any musician in the audience, that this was a challenging score  but the cast and conductor handled it with aplomb. The subject as well was quite a departure from traditional Western European grand opera and I was impressed that these young singers held their own in a genre that they probably have not had much experience in (since it is not mainstream) or regularly performed in opera companies or conservatories. The chamber environment suits it well and the audience recognized the dedication and skill of the cast and production crew with a standing ovation.

In my opinion, the score should be revised a bit, cut and pared down, swapping some of the “rap” for a more lyrical accompanied recitative. The “rap” idea was fun at first, since it was different, but the composer definitely could write some harmonies and melodies, and did that well in Act 9. The constant raps tended to slow down the action. The story itself is compelling and although it is a short opera, of only 1 hour, the lack of dramatic tension and release in the music, as well as dynamic and tempi changes, made it drag in some places.  That was not the fault of the singers or the conductor. A revision of course, is a task for the composer, not the singers or conductor, to consider.

All in all, Live/Wire Ensemble and Opera Company is to be congratulated for taking a risk and staging three relatively new electroacoustic works to an enthusiastic Philadelphia audience. I welcome your comments and discussions about these performances! Please write something if you were there at one of the performances and want to contribute your thoughts. 

For more information on Jon Paul Mayse, please visit: https://jonpaulmayse.com/
To more on Carlos Johns-Dávila: https://www.newperuvian.net/


The Sun Gate: A Reimagining of the Peruvian Inti Raymi Festival

In elementary school most of us learned about the Incas, the indigenous people who Spanish “conquistadores” encountered in what today is called “Perú” in South America. Every year visitors from around the world travel to Machu-Picchu in the Peruvian mountains (the Andes) to hike and experience these famous ruins. Some people go for the adventurous trekking, some for cultural reasons, and others consider it a spiritual pilgrimage.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Peru still fascinates. The legends of the Incas remain prominent in the contemporary globalized and fast world, passed down through their descendants. Some even speak their language, quechua. Imagine being able to experience an Inca festival, recreated for the 21st century, right here in Philadelphia?

From July 26-29, 2018, Live/Wire Opera Company presents three works: Radiance, Pacamambo and The Sun Gate. (See my previous interview with Jon Mayse for a general overview of the evening). Earlier this week I spoke with Peruvian-American composer, Carlos Johns-Dávila, about his piece, The Sun Gate. Following is a summary of our interview:

Deslumbrar: Carlos, thank you for agreeing to speak with me about your piece, The Sun Gate. First, I’d like to know a little about your background and inspirations. How did you get started in music?

Carlos: So far I have had essentially two revelations about music. The first was when my mom took me for my first piano lesson at age 6. The second was when I applied to Interlochen for boarding school. I ended up attending for my last two years of high school, which really exposed me to completely new contexts for music and culture. There was some, but not much in my hometown. Anyway, I applied to Interlochen initially as a piano performance major. However, the level of competition is very high and I realized I might be over my head. Nevertheless I went to the audition, and eventually was offered admission as a composer! I had been dabbling in composition as a child and in my lessons I kept intentionally tweaking the piano scores (when I played them), to the dismay of my piano teacher. It wasn’t conscious then, but those were early indications of my composition talents. Right before I applied to Interlochen, I had won a competition for piano composition held by York Symphony Orchestra in Pennsylvania.

Later I attended Temple University in music composition and there I was exposed to electronic music. There I met Jon Mayse who is artistic director of Live/Wire and also a composer. What I like about it is that I can be original with electronic composition and blend it with acoustic instruments. Because my Peruvian ancestry is important to me and inspires me creatively, mixing the archaic and the contemporary is appealing. It reflects me: “What does it mean to be a Peruvian yet living in the United States?”

Deslumbrar: What is The Sun Gate about?

Carlos: This will be the second production of The Sun Gate. I set out to do one large scale production each year. I wanted to focus on myth, religion and ritual. The premiere was at Areté Gallery in Brooklyn, NY on June 9, 2018, curated by Melinda Faylor.


The Sun Gate. At the premiere on June 9, 2018, Areté Gallery.

The Inti (Sun) Raymi (Festival) is the solstice for the Incas. It usually occurs in June, which is summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the southern. This festival is enacted in Perú but it is not the same as what the Incas did—that was lost in colonial times. What I’m doing, and what is done now in Peru is based on the writings of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, who lived from 1539-1616.

(Video trailer of Inti Raymi Festival in Cuzco)

The performance includes two dancers, a 360 camera, the Quenacho flute and computer. Visual arts and dance have inspired me over the years. My Peruvian roots and composers like Eric Satie and John Cage have too. I appreciate these composers’ work because of its unique combination of strategy and artistry. Their pieces are captivating with depth.

Deslumbrar: Thank you for the interview. I look forward to attending the performance.

Check out more about Carlos on his website, https://www.newperuvian.net/ where you can see photos, videos and music samples.

For more information and tickets to the performance by Live/Wire Opera Company, July 26-29, 2018 at Temple University,

visit:  https://pepper-daffodil.squarespace.com/livewire/ 

Electroacoustic Music Extravangaza at Temple University, July 26-29 in Philadelphia!

Recently, I conducted an interview via e-mail with Jon Mayse, composer and artistic director of Live/Wire about the upcoming show, “Pacamambo/The Sun Gate/Radiance” on July 26-29, 2018. I’ve recently learned through interviews with Jon and his colleague, Carlos Johns-Dávila, that this type of music is a blend of computer generated music and acoustic (traditional) instruments. This program struck me as unique and also very fitting for Deslumbrar, because of  The Sun Gate written by a Peruvian-American composer.
Deslumbrar:  How did the Live/ Wire Opera Company get started? What kinds of productions do you do?
Jon Mayse: Live/Wire started because I saw so many great electroacoustic works that weren’t getting performed, so I figured I’d simply do them with friends. I ran the idea of doing an electroacoustic opera by Isaac Young, the Opera Company Music Director, who somehow convinced me that it was possible for us to do (which was a total lie! I am waaaay too busy!). Initially, we wanted to do a major festival with guest artists, workshops, panels, etc and promote it with solo house shows or gallery shows. Then we saw how much that cost, so we scaled back to just an opera, Pacamambo, and some installations, Sun Gate and Radiance. This is our first production, but we have programs set up for solo sets with bassoon, trombone, organ, and piano that we would love to get performed in the future!
Deslumbrar:  How did you get started in music?  Tell me about your composition process and inspiration.
Jon Mayse: I was originally a blues guitarist, but I got into “classical” music a few years ago, then got into electronic music when I was a member of the Boyer Electroacoustic Ensemble Project (BEEP) at Temple University. My process differs from project to project. For Radiance, there has been a lot of programming, so I haven’t sat down and written any music out. Instead, the bassoonist (Dominic Panunto) has some general guidelines (techniques, gestures, sounds) that he will realize on his own. My faith is my main inspiration. Radiance depicts different moments in scripture in which God’s presence is made manifest. Musically, I tend to use lots of extended techniques on instruments (such as bassoon playing multiple notes or cellists using the cello as a percussion instrument). I’m also inspired by visual artists, such as Olafur Eliasson and Cai Guo Qiang, and sound artists like Samson Young.

Deslumbrar:  There is an upcoming performance of three music works at Temple University this month. Tell me about these works and your role in this event.
Jon Mayse:So, the works are an opera, Pacamambo by Zack Settel, and two multimedia works, The Sun Gate by Carlos Johns-Davila, and Radiance, by myself.
Pacamambo explores grief, friendship, and innocence through the story of a young girl, Julie, who is found in a basement with her dog and the body of her grandmother. Through discussions with a psychologist and dreams/flashbacks, we learn Julie is waiting to confront Death and about a fictional afterlife called Pacamambo, in which everyone is with their loved ones. The opera is wonderfully vibrant, with great rhythmic action and a French language rap.
Here is a clip from a performance of PACAMAMBO by another opera company:

The Sun Gate, by Carlos Johns-Davila, is a modern realization of an Incan Sunrise Festival, Inti Raymi. Viracocha, the Goddess of Creation, walks among the animals on the Celestial River, realizes dawn is coming and wakes the Sun, Inti. The work is for Quenacho (a South American flute) which is played by Carlos, two dancers, and projected lights. The two dancers depict the Sun and the Moon. I’ve only seen some footage from the premier in June, which only made me more excited to see it in person!
Radiance is for Bassoon, Live Electronics, and Lights. The piece depicts various scenes from the Bible in which God’s presence is revealed, from the Spirit coming over the Deep to the reveal of New Jerusalem in Revelations. Four speaker/light stations react to the bassoon, creating an expressive, spatialized dynamic. For example, a crescendo from the bassoonist, Dom, will be matched by brighter lights or maybe by subtle hue changes.
Overall, I am doing the administrative, marketing, technology, and financial work for the Opera Company and the Ensemble. For the opera performance, I am performing the electronic parts. I also wrote the music and electronic part for Radiance.
Deslumbrar:  Congratulations to Jon, who has been accepted to the Royal Academy of Music in London to pursue his master’s degree! He plans to create a “portable version” of Radiance and work on some commissions.  To follow this emerging composer’s career check out his website at: https://jonpaulmayse.com/
Coming up next is a detailed interview with Carlos Johns-Dávila, the composer of The Sun Gate.
Purchase tickets for this musical event (July 26-29 at Temple University) online. For more information check out the website, and Facebook.

Alfredo Rodríguez: A Little Piece of Cuba in Philadelphia

Alfredo Rodríguez, jazz pianist, was born in Havana, Cuba and his music explodes with Cuban passion, and is infused with its influences. In a video for “Havana Culture,” he says: “El cubano lleva la música adentro y la música está en todos lados.” (Cubans have music within them and music is all over).  He began his studies at the Manuel Saumell music school for students between 7-10 years. Eventually, he caught the “ear” of Quincy Jones and left Cuba in 2009 to make a career in the United States.

The Annenberg Center Live presents a Cuba Festival this Spring in Philadelphia. On April 5, 2018, The Alfredo Rodríguez Trio, composed of piano, drums and bass guitar, improvised on familiar Cuban melodies, such as Guantanamera, and original pieces, such as Bloom. Other songs included: Thriller, Bésame mucho, Yemayá, and Ay Mama Inés. 

The origins of jazz include improvisation and the making of music in the moment. The musicians do not use scores and each performance will be different. They work together to invent new ways of playing and making variations on a melody, and not on preparing a written score to present as “the composer” intended.  In addition to rousing variations and solos by all three instrumentalists, they encouraged audience participation in singing a repeating 10 pitch melody on a syllable, and the chorus of Guantanamera. It was fun to sing and it reinforced the act of music making as a collaborative improvisational event. As an audience member I wasn’t just sitting and listening passively, but creating with them.

Alfredo Rodriguez. Annenberg

I was most impressed by Rodriguez’ solo piano composition, Bloom. Most of the other pieces were loud in dynamics, very percussive and rhythmic. In contrast, this lovely soothing melody ethereally emanated from Rodríguez. Here is a version on an electric piano:

Without any sort of backdrop or screen with images on it, I was transported by the music of The Alberto Rodriguez Trio. In Yemayá, I imagined the goddess in her blue, floating on the sea, to the trills in the piano, and suddenly louder more marked chords, perhaps signal the entrance of Changó. Thriller invoked Michael Jackson and his monsters in a playful way, while Bésame mucho and Ay, Mama Inés, were an opportunity to combine latin sounds and rhythm with jazz for a cool performance.

It was easy to imagine the couples dancing to Ay Mama Inés. Fittingly, the trio ended the 100 minute concert with Guantanamera. Guantanamera,  no matter how it is played, is a hymn to Cuba and all things Cuban. It always reminds me of José Martí as well as the island, strength and simplicity, and the Cuban people. The enthusiastic audience applauded with a standing ovation.  

For more information about Alberto Rodríguez, see his website or Facebook page.  Visit AnnenbergCenter.org for a list of upcoming events this season.

Songs You Left Behind: An Evening of Cultural Pride

On February 21, 2018 at the Kimmel Center, several Latino musicians and bands entertained a wall to wall enthusiastic audience. The concert was free and the fourth annual one of an initiative between the Kimmel Center and Javier Suarez, the Vice President of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.  “Songs You Left Behind” was held in the SEI Innovation Studio, which is located in the basement of the Kimmel Center. The goal of the event is to “bring the music of the Americas to new audiences.” This was definitely successful on Wednesday evening, since the sold out audience was comprised of people familiar with the music (of their homelands or ancestors) and many people who were curious but who did not know the songs or genres.

Javier Suarez and a representative from the Kimmel Center, acted as emcees. The setup was similar to a cabaret with a song or a few from each vocalist or band and then stories, jokes or interaction with the audience about music and related topics. The musicians represented Colombia, Puerto Rico, Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States. Since all but one were individuals or small bands, they were well served by the venue. The last group to perform, Banda Retoño, a Sinaloan (Northern Mexico) ensemble from New Jersey, really needed a much larger space. They have 15-16 musicians who play a variety of instruments, including clarinet, tuba, trombones, trumpets and percussion. Their numbers were superbly performed, but it was much too loud for the space.

The concert began with solo vocalist, William Eduardo, representing Costa Rica.  He sang “América, América” to a recorded accompaniment. He came back later in the evening with another ballad, “Jamás” (by Camilo Sesto from Spain) in which he encouraged the audience to sing along, and we did! I had great fun listening to him and enjoyed his “in your face” style, which is typical of Latin American singers of pop and ballads. A nod to the music of the mid-twentieth century, it was an interesting contrast to some of the dance music performed in the evening. Here is a youtube recording of  “América, América” by Spanish singer Nino Bravo:

In addition to Banda Retoño, Marla Jimenez also sang a Mexican song, “Mi querido viejo” made famous by Vicente Fernandez.  Ms. Jimenez was accompanied by Berto and Giovanni on guitars and she explained that the song was sung to her often by her father. She became emotional sharing this since her father had passed away and she was inspired to sing this song in his memory. From Colombia, Miguel Reynoso and De Tierra Caliente (USA/Colombia) played a few songs, including “Como un sueño” written by percussionist, “Papa Buda,” and a cover of “Carito” by Carlos Vives.  Although “De Tierra Caliente” sings in Spanish, they definitely have a United States sound, more like funk than salsa in “El sonido”, which they also performed in “Songs You Left Behind.”

A highlight of the evening was Magdaliz Roura and Crisol, who I have heard in different venues over the years. I was impressed with the virtuosity of the flutist and drummer, and Magdaliz’ evocative singing, while she expertly played the guitar. The group dedicated their three songs, two of them from Puerto Rico, to the Puerto Rican people.  “En mi viejo San Juan” by Noel Estrada (1942) was a perfect rendition that began with a flute solo. Their second song was “Bucha y pluma na ma” by Rafael Hernandez (1958), which is one of my favorites. This song was made famous by Puerto Rican vocalist, Myrta Silva, who sang with Cuba’s La Sonora Matancera before Celia Cruz. Magdaliz and Crisol played with gusto and feeling, clearly communicating the hilarity of this song.

They ended their set with an impromptu version of  the Colombian cumbia “La pollera colorá.”

A few audience members got up and danced throughout the evening, and the atmosphere was festive. With only several groups a wide variety of music was performed. This is definitely an event that the Kimmel Center should keep doing each year. Perhaps in a bigger venue for the large ensembles, and a piano?

A Homage to Chiquinha Gonzaga: A New CD by Brazilian pianist, Hercules Gomes

I’ve spent the last several years intrigued by the life and music of Brazilian composer, Francisca “Chiquinha” Gonzaga. She was born in the mid-19th century and was a pianist and conductor as well. I’ve written about her (on this blog even), sung her songs and presented about her life and music. Today, I heard for the first time about Hercules Gomes, a pianist from São Paulo, who is raising funds to create a new recording of pieces in homage to Chiquinha Gonzaga. It is called “No Tempo da Chiquinha.” He’s arranged some of her pieces, adding some of his own style and modernizing her original scores with influences over the last century.  This is his arrangement of one of Chiquinha’s most famous works, Corta jaca:

This is one of my favorites. It is bouncy and danceable. Hercules says that this was his first arrangement of one of Chiquinha’s works, in 2014, for the site: www.chiquinhagonzaga.com.  One can contribute to the funding of this recording by going to the secure crowdfunding site: https://www.catarse.me/notempodachiquinha, and also receive different gifts for a contribution.

Another video that Hercules has put out is of Joaquim Callado’s Querida por todos. Callado was a flutist and instructor, and a mentor to Chiquinha. He is considered the “father of choro.” Although, this piece was not written by Chiquinha, it was written in homage to her, and fits right in with theme of the recording. Playing flute is Rodrigo Y Castro.

Rodrigo and Hercules, who often play together, discuss what Callado meant for flute playing in Brasil. For more information about Hercules, check his website:  http://herculesgomes.com/en/bio/  and his youtube channel for videos: Hercules Gomes




A música na sala de aula

O público estava de pé. Algumas pessoas estavam dançando e cantando. Todo o mundo irradiava entusiasmo. O grupo de dança terminou seu concerto com um convite para o público: “Levantem-se! Dancem e cantem conosco!”. Eu lembrei de algumas palavras das canções familiares que tinha escutado no Brasil e cantado com eles. A energia do Balé Folclórico da Bahia era contagiosa — como não cantar, como não se mexer? Centenas de estadunidenses se comportavam como se assistissem a um concerto de rock e não a um espetáculo de dança! Mas tudo isso reflete a cultura brasileira.

O Brasil é conhecido por seu soft power. A cultura brasileira chega aqui nos Estados Unidos em forma de dança, de canção, de música, de cinema, de futebol. Com certeza, o Brasil tem muitos destaques nas artes plásticas importantes mundialmente, e no teatro e na literatura também. Sem falar da culinária e das telenovelas. Porém, são as expressões artísticas por meio da música que deslumbram o maior número de estrangeiros. Sendo a música uma “linguagem” universal, pouco importava que 75% (ou mais) das pessoas que assistiram ao concerto não compreendessem o português, e nem tivessem pisado no Brasil. A música as levou para o país na sua imaginação naquele momento.

Acho que são a qualidade e a variedade das músicas brasileiras (e para falar na música portuguesa, também o fado) e a sua singularidade que fazem que seja tão natural, tão orgânico, incluir a música nas aulas de Língua Portuguesa. Mesmo numa aula de iniciantes de Português, pode-se usar uma canção para mostrar pronúncia, ou para cultivar os ouvidos do aluno aos sons do Português. Dá para mostrar um vídeo de dança ou até ensinar movimentos de dança aos alunos que não conseguem falar muito, para uma lição de cultura. Com uma turma mais avançada, obviamente temos um sem fim de oportunidades para introduzir a música na sua aprendizagem. Uma das atividades que gostava muito era comparar a música nos filmes, Orfeu e Orfeu negro, com as da obra de teatro original Orfeu de Conceição de Vinicius de Moraes. Os alunos de Português são apresentados a grandes músicos e poetas brasileiros e, assim, aprendem melhor o vocabulário e mais palavras, analisam filmes, poesias e estrutura das canções. Sobretudo, podem ver como a música, e não somente as palavras faladas, tem a ver com a emoção e a expressão dos personagens nas versões brasileiras do mito grego de Orfeu. Make Some Noise!

Quando eu ensino sobre o Nordeste, sempre mostro vídeos das diferentes danças e suas respectivas músicas: forró, frevo, xaxado, etc. É uma cultura muito diferente do Sul e do Sudeste do país. Quando eles veem o xaxado, em recentes registros do Youtube, e como a representação do cangaço (especialmente Lampião e Maria Bonita) continua viva, eles compreendem e sentem que eram figuras históricas essenciais nessa cultura regional.

Uma das minhas atividades preferidas com música é explicar a literatura de cordel e o repente. Uso a canção “O que é a literatura de cordel” de Francisco Diniz. Essa canção explica a literatura de cordel numa canção estilo forró. Os alunos fazem sua própria literatura de cordel em grupos como projeto final. Durante a preparação, falamos sobre a história do cordel comparando com meios de comunicação modernos. Assistimos a vídeos sobre o cordel e o repente. Também , antes de escrever e recitar seus poemas, os alunos praticam e recitam poesias famosas e simples como repentistas, com pandeiros plásticos. Fazem modificações no tom de voz e na projeção dela com essas obras para sentirem-se mais confortáveis com o ritmo e usarem suas vozes. Assim, o aluno melhora seu conhecimento da cultura, sua capacidade de usar a língua portuguesa ao escutar e fazer a música ele mesmo.

Sou artista, então para mim, as artes são imprescindíveis para entender o Brasil, Portugal ou qualquer cultura. Aliás, as artes em seus muitos gêneros, às vezes, representam e manifestam os pensamentos de um povo e não somente ideias de indivíduos. Também surgem em resposta à turbulência política. Eu sei que muitos colegas gostam de tocar canções de MPB (Musica Popular Brasileira) especialmente Bossa Nova e músicas da Tropicália. Uma canção forte como Cálice, de Chico Buarque, dá arrepios em si por causa de seu arranjo e o significado da letra. Mas explorar a história da apresentação mostra como a censura da ditadura militar que começou em 1964 operava – cortaram o som quando ele e Gilberto Gil iam tocar a canção em Festival Phono 73, em São Paulo. No caso de Portugal, os alunos escutam Grandola, Vila Morena, quando aprendem sobre a Revolução dos Cravos, comemorada no dia 25 de abril.

Emprego a vida e a música da maestrina Francisca “Chiquinha” Gonzaga, para ensinar língua e História brasileira. A compositora nasceu em 1847, quando o Brasil era ainda monarquia e mantinha a escravidão. Morreu em 1935. Ela viveu num período no qual ocorreram importantes movimentos históricos no Brasil, como a Guerra do Paraguai, a abolição da escravatura, a Revolta do Vintém, a queda da monarquia, o início da república, o governo Getúlio Vargas…sem falar de sua própria história pessoal, riquíssima em acontecimentos, como a publicação de suas partituras, obras de teatros e sua intensa vida boêmia. Os alunos leem uma biografia juvenil dela, veem partes da minissérie, participam de um têm um sarau, e fazem outras atividades relacionadas à história e à música dela.

Acho que podemos transmitir uma parte da cultura lusófona a nossos alunos na sala de aula. Com certeza, essa experiência na aula de Português não equivale ficar num país lusófono e experimentar a vida e a cultura diretamente. Porém, às vezes nossos alunos não têm essa oportunidade, ou a aula é seu primeiro encontro com a cultura e a língua. Devemos fazer com que eles apreciem e sintam essa cultura, que ouçam nos ouvidos e no coração a música desses países. Assim, é uma maneira de comunicar — e daí a importância de nosso trabalho.

Talking About Chiquinha Gonzaga…

Next week I travel to Charleston, SC, to give a presentation with songs about the Brazilian maestrina Francisca “Chiquinha” Gonzaga. Chiquinha’s music is timeless–people are still dancing and singing “O Abre Alas”, and musicians around the world play compositions that she wrote in the 19th and early 20th century. Chiquinha is considered the “mother” of Brazilian popular music. Along with Joaquim Callado and others, she mixed African rhythms with European music to create something new. She was a woman before her time–the first woman in Brazil to conduct an orchestra and she wrote over 300 songs and musical pieces. She was an original founder of the SBAT, Sociedade Brasileira de Artistas Teatrais, which sought to support playwrights, lyricists and composers. Chiquinha is also known for her political activism. She was an abolitionist and an in favor of a republic. Celeste Mann 3 29 17 lecture on Chiquinha Gonzaga (1)