The stage in Hall Auditorium was filled with an assortment of instruments that most of the audience wouldn’t have seen before. The vocalists sang in Spanish, so most people listening were not able to understand the lyrics. The eclectic mix of classic Latin music and modern pop was foreign to their ears.
Despite how unfamiliar it all was, the audience was dancing and clapping along the entire evening.
The Performing Arts Series, under the direction of Patti Liberatore, hosted The New Golden Age of Latin Music last Thursday. The event was sponsored by globalFEST, a nonprofit world music festival and service organization aimed at spreading diversity through music. The night featured two bands with Latin origins whose unique blend of music can’t be classified under any one name. The program given to audience members described the music as “Alt-Chicano, Indie Mambo,” which hints at the unique style.
The first band to take the stage called themselves Las Cafeteras and shared the mission of telling the stories of migrant life in Los Angeles. The musicians, all either Native Americans or Mexican migrants, played the bass and guitar with Latin instruments such as the jarana and requinto, Latin guitars.
The band members each played multiple instruments and took turns singing lead and backup vocals. They also took turns performing Zapateado, a style of dance from Mexico similar to tap dancing. They were high-energy from the second they took the stage and had the audience clapping and singing along through their whole set.
Their songs were sung in both Spanish and Spanglish, including an original version of the classic folk song “This Land is Your Land.” One band member told the audience about his indigenous heritage and how the song had special importance to him and his family as they would sing it at their reunions. While it started off slowly, their rendition quickly changed back to the high-energy music they are known for. Two girls in the front row began dancing and soon inspired the rest of the audience to join them.
While most of the set was reserved for fun and dancing, they took a moment after “This Land is Your Land” to discuss the state of the U.S. and the issues immigrants, Dreamers in particular, are facing in the current political administration.
During the next song, they added an element of hip-hop into their music as one band member rapped about the rise of gun violence in the U.S. in recent years. The band implored the audience to always take action against injustice and corruption.
After the brief period of seriousness they returned to to their easy-going energy until the end. They finished their set with the classic “La Bamba” which was a hit with the audience.
The second band, Orkestra Mendoza, took the stage next. Sergio Mendoza, the bandleader, grew up around the Mexican border in Nogales, Arizona and Nogales, Mexico. Along with him there were five other band members, some original members and some longtime friends of Mendoza playing with him for this specific tour. The band mixed a variety of musical styles and instruments to show what can be achieved through cultural exchange.
Playing guitars, an electric violin, an accordion, a synthesizer, an upright bass and a variety of percussion instruments, the band seamlessly blended instruments that most people wouldn’t think belong in the same piece of music. The band, while not quite as upbeat as the first, had the stage presence of rock stars that have been touring for decades.
Each member was skilled at their instrument and knew how to work the stage to keep the audience fully engaged. Each musician was an equally important piece of their band and it was hard to pick just one to focus on.
The audience danced throughout Orkestra Mendoza’s set, and people flocked to the front row once again to be closer to the action. At the end of their set, the members of Las Cafeteras joined them for their final piece. They all bowed together to uproarious applause from the audience.
Liberatore, the director of the Performing Arts Series, says she decided to bring globalFEST’s tour to Miami as part of their commitment to presenting diverse cultural arts events.
“Part of what we do in the Performing Arts Series is partner with Dr. Crawford in his project for inclusivity, so it made a lot of sense to include it in the broad spectrum,” said Liberatore.
This is the second time globalFEST’s tour has been at Miami, and Liberatore hopes to bring them back for their next tour.
“We think it’s really important that the Performing Arts Series play a role in presenting a broad variety of cultures through performance,” Liberatore added.