At the second annual Bronx Celebration Day on April 21, a Mexican folk dance troupe, Marzarte Dance Company, held hands with Fordham students and local residents for an energetic chain dance around the Walsh Lot of the Rose Hill campus.
Folklorist and choreographer Martha Nora Zarate-Alvarez, who heads the Bronx-based ensemble, said the group’s lively performance represented the traditions of the Huasteco and Jalisco regions of Mexico.
“We wanted to showcase the importance of Mexican culture in the Bronx and traditional Mexican dance,” said Zarate-Alvarez, who was dressed in a multicolored tiered skirt. “Mexican culture is more than just mariachi music.”
Bronx Celebration Day was presented by the Bronx Collaboration Committee, a division of the Fordham Club, and co-sponsored by Bronx Community Board 6, Fordham University Commuting Students Association, Fordham Road BID, and the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer at Fordham University.
Via Mark Naison, professor of history and African American history at Fordham University:
Growing up in Crown Heights in the 1950’s, the child of two teachers who had come out of dire poverty to scrape into the middle class, I viewed politics and government as abstractions, frightening and remote. Between my parents whispered talks of McCarthyite purges, the mushroom clouds I saw on tv, and the shelter drills we had in school, politics was scary. Televised pictures of Eisenhower and Nixon, who looked nothing like the Jewish, Italian and Black People in our neighborhood, made it remote. I was told by my parents never to sign a petition, the Constitution was something we memorized in school and trying to become President seemed absurd for people in my section of Brooklyn.
So how did I become “American,” attached to the possibilities, mythologies, and opportunities the nation offered to people of modest means who came from immigrant backgrounds?
It was sports and music which made me American. Watching Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider play center field; watching Carl Furillo, who had the same face as many of my Italian friends, throw bullets from right field; listening to Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers; Dion and the Belmonts, and Little Anthony and the Imperials, kids who came out of neighborhoods just like mIne, create beautiful harmonies and sell millions of record; watching Giants linebacker Sam Huff try to tackle the great Cleveland running back Jim Brown! These were things that brought fame and fortune to kids like me, things that showed that anything was possible in America even if you grew up with very little or were stalked by ancient hatreds, such as the anti-semitism that was so much a part of my parents childhoods.
We’ve all seen the videos and heard the stories. Someone walks up to a person who looks ‘foreign’ and demands that they act/speak/look ‘American’ only to be told that the ‘foreigner’ grew up here and is really just as American as anyone else.
Joe Kye is a Korean-born fellow, who moved to the US at age 6. He experiences some aspect of being told ‘you’re different’ just about every day- even in his hometown of Seattle. But ultimately, the city came to his rescue, presenting the young Joe the opportunity to play violin in the school system. It proved to be his escape, and the songs on Joe’s upcoming album Migrants reflect the immigrant experience, and what it’s like to live stuck between two worlds.
“I’m looking to create a sound and a vision for what might be,” says Kye, a violinist, composer, and vocalist who blew open his diverse musical world when he discovered the magic of the loop pedal in college. That vision has fractures and fragments, wounds and gaps, but it resonates with a bittersweet optimism, a measured hope for change and coming together on Migrants, his debut full-length album and third release.
Kye’s crisp playing, layered in swirls of pizzicato arpeggios and percussive elements, forms the foundation for clever and reflexive lyrics and a tender, urgent voice. He bounces his own distinctive sound around in collaboration with everyone from friend and LA-based MC Jason Chu and Vegas-based MC Rasar (“Fall In”), to NYC composer/percussionist William Catanzaro (“Migrants”), to a full string section (“Joseph Rests His Head”), a lush contrast to Kye’s taut loops.
Music has been a lifelong refuge for Kye. “Music is essential and therapeutic for me, and has been since childhood,” Kye recalls. “I remember in Korea, borrowing my dad’s walkman and putting on the headphones, how powerful and adult that felt. That personal and transportative experience has stayed with me.”
Tropical doyen Cal Jader (the main man at Movimientos) returns to the S&C site for another year with his selection of 10 Latin American tunes that have been keeping his DJ sets, radio shows and headphones alive over the past 12 months. From reggaeton to cumbia to samba, Latin jazz and Cuban electronica there surely is a little something for everyone here.
Read the rest of this piece (with music videos) here.
The band news is I found out about an empowering all-female band that made beautiful music, but are no longer together. The good news? A Brooklyn record label has re-issued their music! This band is the Femm Nameless.
Led by Trombonist Toli Nameless, who recorded with Antibalas on their classic version of Willie Colon’s Che Che Colé, The Femm Nameless picked up where the Godfather of Afrobeat, Fela Anikulapo Kuti left off, just after meeting Sandra Izsadore. They had a powerful and unmistakeable energy that could only come from a woman, or in this case, eight women.
They describe themselves as “all-female punk funk meets ‘Mama Afrobeat,’ the Femm Nameless, disbanded after some active years of performing live and recording an incredible demo that never saw the light of day―until now.
The good folks over at Kooyman Records dug into the vaults, mastered and unearthed these jams from Toli & The Femm Nameless to bring us a 10” viny.! The record includes a dance floor monster―a cover of Nina Simone’s “See Line Woman,” flipped upside down, in fine Afrobeat style.
The ideas on the record were put together by Toli, along with Tom Brenneck of the Dap Kings, the Budos Band and the Menahan Street Band, and Ernesto Abreau of Antibalas. The record was recorded and engineered in East Flatbush, Brooklyn by Sydney Mills of Steel Pulse.
I am loving this entire list of the greatest albums made by women by the good folks over at NPR Music. No Doubt, Fiona Apple, Norah Jones, La Lupe… it’s like going down memory lane with so many great albums.
Here’s an excerpt of number 47 by Cuba’s Celia Cruz:
47. Celia Cruz Son con Guaguanco(Emusica/Fania, 1966)
When Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso sang, people stopped and listened. Alfonso, known by her stage name Celia Cruz, possessed a full-bodied voice filled with emotion and sincerity that makes you feel viscerally what she’s singing. She took Cuban music out of Cuba, out of Latin America and into the world. And she did it as a black woman in a male dominated field that valued whiteness. On her 1966 album Son con Guaguanco, she sings about daily life—about not having manteca to cook, losing her purse and being deeply in love. As women fought to be taken seriously in the workplace, Celia Cruz tirelessly put out albums and toured the world as a single woman — something many people looked down on. But she was the ultimate example of a woman carving her own path and demanding the respect she merited. Though Son con Guaguanco didn’t have much commercial success, it marks the type of music she popularized from the beginning of her career called pregón, which is a Cuban musical style based on the calls and chants of street vendors. She also popularized the Afro-Cuban sounds filled with the raucous horns and drums that comprise the basis of salsa, which became the music of Latinos in the 1970s. A true legend and superstar, and compared to Ella Fitzgerald by many in the American press for her soneos (improvisational sections of salsa songs more nuanced than jazz scats), Celia Cruz continues to be a shining example for being completely yourself. —Christina Cala (NPR Staff)