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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

A cantar de nuevo

Published: October 28, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

Where is the point of contact? In what universe does Panama share a border with Jamaica? Where can you find the confluence of currents and the crossroads of journeys, where the conga and timbales flirt with the verse of Frost and Longfellow? Does there exist a doorway that can teleport us from Ireland to Cuba?

Here, at this point of contact, where we discover the tune, the word, the rhythm, and the image, we find, at its center, our friends, the people who weave it all into a fleeting, precious month of our lives. Weavers of magic, perhaps

Thus, once more, these people from AHORA!, the Hispanic/Latino student organization of Brandeis, wrapped up the whirlwind Hispanic Heritage Month 2005 event series last Monday. This years theme was: Latino Music: Our Rhythm, Our Culture, Our Roots. Timed to coincide with the independence anniversaries of several Latin-American nations, the celebration began in mid-September and formally ended with its Closing Ceremonies dinner, the last of a series of impressive events.

This years spectacle saw some notable firsts, according to club president Raphy Cuevas 06. Among these:

-The first dance performance by Salseros, Brandeis student club dedicated to salsa dance;

-The first live bachata band on campus, introducing Brandeis to a music/dance style from the Dominican Republic, a style somewhat lesser-known than merengue;

-The first formal recognition and discussion of the cutting-edge musical genre, reggaetn.

The opening event was the presentation by keynote guest-speaker and radio personality, Jos Mass, on 22 September. Speaking on Latino musics social impact on the U.S. and Latin America, he presented some striking examples of musical fusion occurring in the music world today. The last example he presented was the most surprising: A melodic Irish tune that suddenly metamorphosed into a rhythmic Cuban piece. This duality mirrored his life, and his incorporation of many aspects of the U.S. mainland culture into himself, following his arrival in New York. An old story, presented in a novel way.

Salseros gave a special dance class on the 29th. On October 5th, AHORA! presented the screening of a video about reggaetn, followed by an informal discussion. Reggaetn is a musical genre with origins in Panama, and which borrows from Jamaican reggae and U.S. hip-hop styles. Uniquely Latin-American in outlook, it has a topical, political focus, but has been at the center of controversy, due to the prevalence of suggestive lyrics. Some have alleged that it promotes violence and misogyny, and we talked about these themes at the discussion. It was certainly provocative, and students displayed an impressive knowledge of musical history.

On the 13th, Gilbertos Conjunto Bachatero played in Schwartz Auditorium, marking the formal debut of bachata at Brandeis. Im certain that this appealing genre will be a highlight at many campus festivities to come.

Last Saturday witnessed the Main Event, the annual showcase of all that is wonderful and affirming in Hispanic/Latino culture. A respectable gathering of spectators attended in spite of the rain. The show was quite an eclectic mixture of pre-Columbian dance;

New England poetry;

rap and fusion pieces;

a video showcasing Brandesians knowledge of Latino music;

a true salsa spectacular;

and an educational slideshow presented by the evenings narrator, Jonathan DOleo. An After-Party dance followed the show.

Mondays Closing Ceremonies featured wonderful Colombian delicacies. There were speeches of gratitude and praise given by ICC Director Suzie Talukdar, and by Cuevas and the other AHORA! E-Board members, Richard Enander 07, Mara Minski 06, Adriani Len 08, and Rosemelody Santana 07.

The Main Event, like the whole months itinerary, was truly a bold lineup. But did it work? For one who followed the theme of Hispanic Heritage Month from the beginning, the continuity of the message was clear: In music we find our roots as in nowhere else. This, I believe, is because music has the unique capacity to reduce human inhibition, bringing people together with a greater willingness to taste the unfamiliar and accept the mixing of styles. History intervenes and does the rest. And thus, here at the point of contact, the crossroads of journeys, and the confluence of currents: A synthesis of three continents and a billion dreams. The conga beats;

the body rises and moves… Yes indeed, I think it worked.

The close of festivities does not mark the end of our song;

only the conclusion of one verse. We have more songs to sing this year, for in our music lie not just our rhythm, culture, and roots;

in our music we indeed find ourselves. We are the song. And so: A cantar de nuevo;

lets sing again. Come, sing with us.