A Visual Journey Through Afro-Latin Soundscapes

During the Fall 2013 semester, Professor Dylon Robbins taught the interdisciplinary seminar Afro-Latin Soundscapes. In the accompanying colloquium series, CLACS hosted a series of musicians and scholars that spoke of the way music crosses cultural boundaries.

Without mixers and soundboards the songs have taken on a organic sound that has helped shape hip-hop’s role as a legitimate expression of Cuban culture. Hailing from the industrial suburbs of Havana, the husband and wife team Alexey and Magia formed Obsesión in 1996. Alexey has become a nexus for various forms of artistic expression, promoting the convergence of painting, sculpture, dance, and poetry within the hip-hop scene. Magia is known as an eloquent advocate of women’s rights.

Multiple Grammy Nominee and Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow Miguel Zenón represents a select group of musicians who have masterfully balanced and blended the often-contradictory poles of innovation and tradition. Widely considered as one of the most groundbreaking and influential saxophonists of his generation, he has also developed a unique voice as a composer and as a conceptualist, concentrating his efforts on perfecting a fine mix between Latin American Folkloric Music and Jazz. In 2011 he founded Caravana Cultural, a program whose main purpose is to present free Jazz concerts in rural areas of Puerto Rico.

Professor Díaz-Quiñones teaches Spanish-American literature, with special emphasis on 19th and 20th century intellectual and cultural history, including fiction, essay and poetry. He has taught seminars on individual authors such as Martí, Palés Matos, Fernando Ortiz, and Ricardo Piglia, as well as on “Empire and its cultural and literary implications in the Spanish-Caribbean,” and on “Literature and Memory.” Professor Díaz-Quiñones has devoted many articles to the role of poets and intellectuals in Hispanic-Caribbean society, among others Luis Palés Matos, Antonio S. Pedreira, and Pedro Henríquez Ureña.

Joe Bataan was born and raised in Spanish Harlem, where he briefly led the Dragons, a local Puerto Rican street gang. His father was Filipino and his mother was African American. Bataan was influenced by two musical styles: the Latin boogaloo and African-American doo-wop. Though Bataan was neither the first nor only artist to combine doo-wop-style singing with Latin rhythms, his talent for it drew the attention of Fania Records, the studio that brought us many classic recordings from the era, including Celia Cruz, Larry Harlow, Ray Barretto, the Palmieri Brothers, Rubén Blades, and Héctor Lavoe. Bataan’s albums often mixed energetic Latin dance songs, sung in Spanish, with slower, English-language soul ballads.

Since arriving in the U.S. in 1980 from his native country Brazil, Cyro Baptista has emerged as one of the premier percussionists in the country. Coinciding with the rise in the public’s interest of world music, Cyro has managed to record and tour with some of music’s most popular names. His mastery of Brazilian percussion and the many instruments he creates himself, have catapulted him into world renown.

Pictures by José Raúl Guzmán MA Candidate at CLACS

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