You guys know I LOVE the Bronx Zoo. What could make them even cooler? Well, they’ve teamed up with legendary rappers and street artists from the Bronx for a new series, “Boogie Down at the Bronx Zoo!”
First off, there’s a song, which you can stream below. Nothing like legendary MCs rapping about zoo animals! This is wonderful for school-aged children, but I love it, too!
These events, starting on Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22, and continuing weekends from May 5 through June 3, will include artists and performers from a diverse representation of Bronx cultures. Think Sugar Hill Gang, breakdancing, Doo Wop music, and salsa and mambo, too! And there will be Cuban and Puerto Rican food, as well as Italian food from Arthur Avenue.
And there are great video teasers for the series. For instance, in this one, Grandmaster Caz talks about how the the Boogiedown borough inspired them. And he says the Bronx Zoo (and the Yankees) are synonymous with the borough!
Here’s a video starring Garndmaster Melle Mel:
Grandmaster Melle Mel and Scorpio of the Furious Five take the stage April 21, May 12, and May 13. You don’t want to miss it. Learn more.
I have an interesting relationship with Colombian vallenato music in that my Colombian-music loving self didn’t always love it. I recall my cousin Maria asking me why I didn’t love it at and me saying “it’s old people music.” Ha! (We joke now that she was — and still is– a romantic, and I was [and still am] a cynical cold hearted kid. Go figure.)
I often heard vallenato at parties growing up because it is somewhat of a somber music, in which the ‘grownups’ sat around, reminisced about their homeland, and had shots of aguardiente. At home, my dad preferred to play salsa and cumbia as he was always more of an upbeat music fan (like me!).
Like my father, I preferred to listen to salsa and cumbia, and later champeta, but I gained an appreciation for vallenato as a young adult when I really started paying attention to the lyrics. So sentimental!
This form of music originated from farmers who, keeping a tradition of Spanish minstrels (Juglares in Spanish), mixed also with the West African-inherited tradition of griots (African version of juglar), who used to travel through the region with their cattle in search of pastures or to sell them in cattle fairs. Because they traveled from town to town and the region lacked rapid communications, these farmers served as bearers of news for families living in other towns or villages. Their only form of entertainment during these trips was singing and playing guitars or indigenous gaita flutes, known as kuisis in the Kogi language, and their form of transmitting their news was by singing their messages. (Source.)
Known as “el cacique (native chief),” Diaz was regarded as one of the best singer-songwriters of vallenato. But he didn’t come without controversy:
Diaz led a tempestuous life, serving time in jail over the death of a fan at a party in his home. He often showed up late to concerts or not at all, something his fans put down to his addiction to drugs and alcohol.
In 1997, at the height of his career and shortly before the launch of his album Mi Biografia (My Biography), a fan and friend of Diaz, Doris Adriana Nino, was found dead by the side of a highway in Tunja province. Forensic experts at first said that she had died of a heart attack following a drug overdose at a party hosted by Diaz, but a later forensic report suggested she had been suffocated.
After a lengthy trial, Diaz was sentenced to 12 years in jail for homicide, a sentence which was later reduced to six years.
Diaz, who had been put under house arrest, went on the run when he was due to be transferred to jail, allegedly hiding away in an area controlled by the infamous paramilitary leader known as Jorge 40. He handed himself in to the authorities in 2002 and, after having his sentence further reduced, was released in 2004. (Source.)
Much like when tropical music king Joe Arroyo died in 2011, Colombians have taken to the streets to pay homage to Diaz. And Valledupar’s mayor has declared four days of mourning.
Radio stations are playing songs from his vast discography nonstop.
There are several favorites of Diaz I love, but I’ll leave you with “Mensaje de Navidad” since it’s appropriate for the Christmas season:
Again, the lyrics are somber, but true, as the holidays aren’t always “joyous” if one is away from loved ones.
Unos dicen: Que buena las navidades Es la época más linda de los años Pero hay otros que no quieren acordarse De la fiesta de Año Nuevo y aguinaldo Pero hay otros que no quieren acordarse De la fiesta de Año Nuevo y aguinaldo